Longtime Rockhurst University Professor, Philanthropist to Receive Award for Leadership and Service

Tuesday, February 6, 2018
Patricia Cleary Miller

As part of its 2018 Leadership Series luncheon on Thursday, April 5, Rockhurst University will award its Rashford-Lyon Award for Leadership and Ethics to Patricia Cleary Miller, Ph.D., a professor emerita of English and a longtime figure in Kansas City’s arts and philanthropic communities.

Miller, a fourth-generation Kansas Citian, attended Notre Dame de Sion School. She graduated from Radcliffe College/Harvard University with a Bachelor of Arts degree in French; from the University of Missouri-Kansas City with a master’s degree in English; and from the University of Kansas with a doctorate in English. For more than three decades, Miller was a fixture of Rockhurst University’s English department, teaching courses ranging from composition to creative writing, from classical to modern literature.

“Patricia has an infectious love of language, history and storytelling,” said University President the Rev. Thomas B. Curran, S.J. “You don’t need to spend much time with Dr. Miller to know her inquisitive spirit, her zeal for taking on new challenges, and her passion for serving others in ways both big and small.”

Following her retirement from Rockhurst in 2015, Miller remained committed to the advancement of humanities education in the liberal arts tradition. Building on a challenge grant from the Stanley H. Durwood Foundation, Charles J. Egan, trustee, Miller worked with Rockhurst University advancement staff to solicit gifts ranging from $5 to $50,000 as she helped lead a yearlong fundraising campaign in 2016 to establish $1 million in scholarships for humanities students at the University.

“I think the study of the humanities is of critical importance — I think they can save the world,” she said of the effort. “Reading the Aeneid or the Odyssey isn’t just about learning history or studying literature — those stories are really about human nature and behavior.”

In addition to her work in the classroom, Miller is an enthusiastic booster of Kansas City’s arts community. An emerita board member of Kansas City’s Writer’s Place, Miller has had more than 100 of her poems published in various literary outlets, in addition to biographical works and books of poetry and history, and served as poet laureate for the Harvard Alumni Association. Miller  also served as a Society of Fellows member at the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art; as a chair of the Visiting Nurse Association; as a member of the board of regents of Conception Seminary College; and a member of the board of Friends of Chamber Music, among others.

The Rashford-Lyon Award is named for two influential leaders in Rockhurst University’s Helzberg School of Management ­—­­ the late Tom Lyon, Ph.D., and the Rev. Nick Rashford, S.J. — and was established in 2014. Previous recipients include Jane Chu, ’05 EMBA, chairwoman of the National Endowment for the Arts, and Kansas City, Missouri, Mayor Sly James, ’80. 

The 2018 Rockhurst University Leadership Series featuring keynote speaker Caroline Kennedy is scheduled for Thursday, April 5, at the Marriott Muehlebach Tower, 1213 Wyandotte St., Kansas City, Missouri. The event is now sold out. For more information, please contact Amy Reardon, assistant director of foundations and corporate relations, at 816-501-4574 or at amy.reardon@rockhurst.edu.