“I Choose Memphis” spotlights Memphians who are passionate about calling this community home. New Memphis Institute provides the profiles.
Name: Melissa Duong
Job title and company: Community Investment Manager, First Tennessee Bank and First Tennessee Foundation
Length of time living in Memphis: 23 years
Life history: I am a first-generation American and Memphian. My family escaped Vietnam in the late 1970s and settled in Memphis, so we’ve called this place home ever since. I grew up in this city and even stayed for college. I attended Germantown High School and graduated from Christian Brothers University with a degree in marketing. I recently completed New Memphis Institute’s Embark program and currently volunteer as a member of the American Cancer Society Junior Executive Board. In my free time, I am a part-time traveler, moviegoer and reader of literary fiction.
What do you like most about your job? I love that my job allows me to see firsthand all the great work that nonprofit organizations in our community are providing for Memphis. Every day I get the chance to interact with Memphians and hear their fascinating stories – stories about hitting rock bottom, but then finding a way to rise up and stand on their own two feet with the help of our amazing local nonprofit organizations. When people speak to me and say that our foundation has helped provide personal development, scholarships or even a second chance, you really can’t receive much more satisfaction than that. It is gratifying to know that when I come to work, I'm doing much more than handling a relationship with a community partner; I'm ensuring that the less-fortunate residents in Memphis get the help and support they deeply deserve.
What is your favorite local restaurant? The Cheesecake Corner. I always have a craving for good cheesecake coupled with a fresh cup of French roast coffee.
What would be your ideal Saturday in Memphis? A perfect Saturday would be stopping by the Memphis Farmers Market for my weekly stock of produce, grabbing lunch at Aldo’s Pizza, heading over to Overton Park (love their dog park!) and then going back Downtown for a Grizzlies game.
Favorite building in Memphis? The Peabody hotel – talk about a great comeback story. From the yellow fever epidemic, foreclosure, closing its doors in 1970s and then finally reopening in 1981 thanks to significant stakeholders, the hotel has endured numerous setbacks before it came to be the grand hotel it is today. I love seeing The Peabody's bright red letters on the Memphis skyline, and the hotel's rooftop provides a view of the Mississippi River that just can't be beat.
First memory of Memphis? When I was 3 or 4, my oldest brother used to always take me to the skate park that was formerly located at Handy Park off Beale Street. I spent many Saturdays walking to A. Schwab and stocking up on candy sticks and Pop Rocks. Yum!
In your opinion, what can be done to move Memphis forward? Financial literacy is a significant yet underpublicized issue that many Memphians face. Spending more energy on creating a financially literate workforce would not only make Memphians more marketable and provide job readiness, it would also help break down socio-economic barriers.