Longtime Professor Honored with Rashford-Lyon Award

Friday, April 6, 2018
Patricia Cleary Miller

Whether it’s helping with a million-dollar fundraising campaign or bringing to life works of classical drama in the classroom, Patricia Cleary Miller, Ph.D., professor emerita of English at Rockhurst University, has long been a visible leader in the arts and humanities.

Miller was honored for her commitment to Rockhurst University and the Kansas City arts community last week with the Rashford-Lyon Award for Leadership and Ethics as part of the sixth Rockhurst University Leadership Series luncheon on Thursday, April 5.

She joins previous winners Sly James, ’80, mayor of Kansas City, Missouri; and Jane Chu, ’05 EMBA, for the award, which 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 to honor the contributions of outstanding leaders from the University community.

A fourth-generation Kansas Citian, Miller earned an undergraduate degree from Radcliffe College/Harvard University, master’s degrees from the University of Missouri-Kansas City, and a doctorate from the University of Kansas.

For more than three decades, she was a part of the faculty in Rockhurst University’s English department, teaching courses ranging from composition to creative writing, from classical to modern literature. She said her deep passion for those subjects stemmed from a belief that the study of the humanities was about more than being able to pass a final exam.

“In learning about other people and times and cultures, we learn about ourselves,” she said. “Perhaps by studying the mistakes and ideals of characters in literature through arts, history, we can reform, transform ourselves, and perhaps even transcend.”

Miller’s enthusiasm and love for the arts was not limited to the walls of the classroom. Following her retirement from Rockhurst in 2015, Miller worked with University advancement staff, soliciting gifts ranging from $5 to $50,000 as she helped lead a yearlong fundraising campaign throughout 2016 to establish $1 million in scholarships for humanities students at the University, building on a challenge grant from the Stanley H. Durwood Foundation, Charles J. Egan, trustee. She has been an enthusiastic booster of the arts community at every turn. One of the founders of Kansas City’s Writer’s Place, Miller has had more than 100 poems published in various literary outlets, in addition to biographical works and several books of poetry and history, and served as poet laureate for the Harvard Alumni Association. Miller served as a Society of Fellows member at the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art. She has also served 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.

“All of us have profited from an education in the humanities,” she said. “We know that the study of art, music, literature, history, languages, gives us insight into the human condition, gets us into minds different from our own. Shows us what William Faulkner called ‘the human heart, in conflict with itself.’”