The Art of Giving

Nancy Miller made a gift in honor of her late husband Paul Miller, a beloved artist and professor.

When Nancy Miller decided to make a donation in memory of her late husband, Paul Franklin Miller Jr., she knew exactly where to give.

“Paul had such an affection for Stevens,” she says. “He was there for a number of years and even when he left, it still had such a big place in his heart. It was just the most logical choice, physically and emotionally, for me.”

Now, with her $100,000 gift to the Visual Arts & Technology program in the College of Arts and Letters (CAL) to create the Paul Franklin Miller Jr. Endowed Memorial Fund, Nancy has ensured that Paul’s passion for arts education will live on at Stevens for many years to come. Her gift is also a watershed moment, as it is the largest single dedicated gift in CAL’s history.

For more than 25 years, from 1969 to 1995, Paul served as Stevens’ artist-in-residence, teaching drawing, painting and sculpture. He was eager to expose engineering and science students to the art world and illustrate how much the arts could benefit them, personally and professionally. From each of his students, he required and mentored a technology-driven work of art based on their field of study and, in doing so, helped create the first art and technology curriculum.

“Paul was the first artist on the hill, and I remember helping him cobble together a curriculum because arts and technology was so new. He wanted the program to grow and he so much wanted there to be crossover projects, interdisciplinary projects among the different departments,” Nancy says. “And he wanted Stevens to be recognized beyond the Tri-State area.”

Even after Paul left Stevens, he never really left it behind, Nancy says, and that played a major role in her decision to make a gift to CAL.

“We were snow birds but the minute when we got back up North — that first day back — we’d do chores and by the afternoon, he’d walk up the hill to see the professors and what was going on,” she remembers. “Stevens was so important to him, I thought it would be a good place to honor his legacy.”

She knew her inclination was well-placed after meeting with CAL Dean Kelland Thomas and assistant professor and program director for Visual Arts & Technology Jeffrey Thompson. Nancy says that she herself is inspired by their concern as to what is best for students.

As of early November, it was still undecided how the gift would be used, but Nancy was planning to meet with Thomas and Thompson to discuss some ideas that Paul would have embraced. She would like the money to go toward extracurricular expenditures that don’t fall within the budget, to be used to further inspire students.

“I don’t care if it’s a lecture series one year, a film series the next. I just want it to go toward something they wouldn’t normally be able to do and create opportunities. And,” she muses, “if this is for the students, I think they should get a say in it.

“Also, arts have a hard time getting funded,” she continues. “There are an awful lot of people who’ve gone through tech school and made a lot of money and will donate to that. But there aren’t a lot of people who’ve gone through art school and made a lot of money, so there’s a hole there, and it makes me happy to contribute.”

CAL faculty couldn’t be more grateful to receive such a generous gift.

“Nancy Miller is a passionate advocate for the arts and art education, and it is an honor for the Visual Arts & Technology program to receive this gift from her,” Thomas says. “The endowment will benefit our young artists going forward in exciting ways. It is a wonderful tribute to the legacy of Paul Franklin Miller, who had a tremendous impact as an interdisciplinary artist and educator at Stevens.”

As for Nancy, she says seeing how Stevens has grown and, specifically, how CAL has developed, make this gift all the more special to her.

“What’s happening at Stevens now is very exciting to me. I think that [President] Nariman Farvardin has such a wonderful mind and is so interested in the whole global business,” Nancy says. “Stevens is in a wonderful place…I think Paul would feel very, very proud of what’s happening.”

For more information on Paul Franklin Miller and to see a collection of his works, visit paulfranklinmiller.com.

(This story first appeared in the Winter 2018 issue of The Stevens Indicator.)