With a slew of speakers and their stories, a dance performance, a piano solo, a song from the Phantom of the Opera, a bluegrass band, several poetry readings and even a round of hugs, Northern Kentucky University celebrated the life of the late English chair, Danny L. Miller.
Members of the NKU community packed Greaves Hall Nov. 15 to pay tribute to Miller, who passed away Nov. 9 from a stroke.
Miller, who had been with NKU since 1981, and the chair of its Literature and Language Department since 2000, touched many lives, according to each of the speakers at the service.
“I have been touched by the outpouring of love,” Gail Wells, vice president of Student Affairs, said. She spoke of his recruitment as the department chair, saying that Miller’s only flaw was his personality.
“Danny is too nice, too caring, to be an administrator,” she joked.
President James Votruba also spoke.
“I’ve been on this stage countless times,” he said, but he’s “never been more touched or deeply penetrated.”
Others shared small traits of the man. Kevin Corcoran admitted that until he heard Miller speak of Wells, he “hadn’t realized that Gail was a two syllable name – Ga-yil.”
NKU Alumna Melissa Rae Gers Baker shared her own story of Danny before reading a passage from the Bible. She said he changed her life during her first advising appointment, when she was overflowing with anxiety.
He noticed that, she said, and promptly got up, walked across the table and hugged her.
“I was like, ‘Is everyone like this in college?” Baker said.
John Alberti, assistant chair of the English Department, tried to resurrect that habit at the ceremony.
“In true Danny fashion,” he said, “stand up and givethe people standing next to you a great big hug.”
A dance troupe also performed at the event, and a professor sang a song from Phantom of the Opera, Miller’s favorite play.
“Gone Home,” an Appalachian bluegrass tune, and one of Miller’s favorites, was also sang.
Barclay Green, an English professor who attended, said the ceremony was “fitting” for Miller.
“It was a perfect mix of sadness and laughter,” Green said. “Laughter is just as much a tribute to his legacy as sorrow.”