Gerald J. Miller, World War II veteran and associate professor
emeritus of the School of Social Work, passed away on November 28,
2014 at the age of 91.
The memories of his life, his career and his legacy are
decorated by a recurring pattern: moments of clear conviction that
led to altruistic action.
Following the attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941, Miller, then a
freshman at Hartwick College, hitchhiked to Albany to offer his
service to the war effort in the U.S. Army Air Corp Aviation Cadet
School. As a member of the Eighth Airforce Division, he received
the Distinguished Flying Cross for destroying nine German Luftwaffe
aircraft in a single mission. This streak of dedication to causes
for the greater good would remain latched onto Miller as he left
the army and ventured forward.
While immersed in a successful career as a research associate in
atomic energy at the University of Rochester Medical Center, Miller
was nudged by the inspiration to make a radical career shift and
become involved in social work. After earning an MSW from St.
Patrick’s College of the University of Ottawa, Miller
returned home to Rochester and worked with Catholic Charities for
Miller joined the UBSSW faculty in 1961, where he remained until
his retirement from his position as MSW Program Director in 1994.
The impression he left upon the School is one of a fierce devotion
to social justice, tempered by a gentle nature and compassionate
sensitivity for his students. Bonnie Collins, MSW ’80 —
a former student of Miller — recalls an example of
Miller’s others-focused kindness. She was late to an exam,
due to tough winter road conditions. When she rushed into class,
anxious from being late and worried that her professor would greet
her with disapproval, she was met instead with understanding from
Miller, who was simply relieved that she was not hurt. He even
suggested that she get a coffee to relax before taking the exam.
Miller’s default response was that of empathy, patience and
humility; he continually searched for ways to elevate his students
It is fitting, then, that when a colleague of Miller’s
passed away, he did something to honor his friend and keep his
memory alive. Paul Edwards, who worked with Miller for more than 20
years at the UBSSW, willed his estate to Miller upon his death.
Miller, whose ambitions were always stoked by helping others, used
the money from the estate to establish the Paul Edwards and Gerald
Miller Scholarship Fund. It was Miller’s wish — as well
as the wish of his dear friend — to ensure that the future of
social work education could continue to thrive. He cherished this
fund, requesting that donations be made to the scholarship in lieu
of flowers at his wake. Miller’s diligent hope to invest in
students, which was sustained throughout his abundant life, now
resonates in his deeply-felt absence.
- Lauren Kroening for Mosaics, Spring 2015