Press Releases

Marlin Miller, business leader and philanthropist, to speak at Alfred University commencement

Alfred University | 5/02/19

Marlin Miller '54 at an earlier commencement
Marlin Miller '54 at an earlier commencement

Dr. Marlin Miller, Jr., ‘54 a visionary businessman and Alfred University’s most-generous donor, will deliver the address at Alfred University’s commencement ceremony at 10 a.m. Saturday, May 18, in the Galanis Family Arena, McLane Center, on the Alfred University campus.


Dr. Marlin Miller, Jr., ‘54 a visionary businessman and Alfred University’s most-generous donor, will deliver the address at Alfred  University’s commencement ceremony at 10 a.m. Saturday, May 18, in the Galanis Family Arena, McLane Center, on the Alfred University campus.

            The University will award Miller, who received a Doctor of Science degree, honoris causa, in 1989, a second honorary degree, the Doctor of Arts, during the ceremony.

            “We asked Marlin Miller to deliver our commencement address this year because he is among the most remarkable people ever to be associated with Alfred University,” said President Mark Zupan.  “He was a ceramic engineering major who was introduced to the arts by his first wife, the late Marcianne Mapel Miller ’54. She was an artist who also did theater, and Marcianne’s passions became Marlin’s too. Most of his significant gifts to the University have been in support of Performing Arts and the School of Art and Design, thus the decision to award him a second honorary degree, this one in the arts.”

            Another reason is Miller’s leadership, Zupan noted. A member of the Board of Trustees since 1972, Miller served a six-year term as chairman, from 1983-89, and helped to launch the University’s first major fund-raising campaign, which led to the renovation of Alumni Hall, built in 1851 and the University’s oldest building. He’s worked with six of the University’s 14 presidents, from Leland Miles, who was president when Miller joined the board, through Zupan, who took office in July 2016.

            He has served on every major committee of the Board, and is a long-standing member of its Executive Committee and its Strategic Planning Committee. “Marlin Miller has been involved in every major decision made by the Board of Trustees for nearly 50 years,” Zupan said.

            Part of his impact is his philanthropy, which has resulted in nearly $75 million in gifts to the University. With his gifts, Miller has built three new buildings – the Miller Performing Arts Center, Miller Theater and the Alfred Ceramic Art Museum -- and contributed to the construction or renovation of others, including Alumni Hall, the Saxon Inn, Kanakadea Hall, and Tefft Residence Hall, as well as the link that will connect Tefft and Moskowitz halls. He has made a challenge grant that he hopes will encourage others to also invest in residence hall renovations.

            Miller has endowed several scholarships; each year, about 35 students benefit from a scholarship fund he has created, some in his own name and others in honor of friends and fellow trustees.

            Giving in honor of others is one hallmark of Miller’s philanthropy.  One of his first major gifts was the Gertz Chair in memory of Fred Gertz, former professor of technical writing and dean of students, who was one of Miller’s mentors. Another gift created the Robert Turner Professorship in Ceramic Art and the Theodore Randall International Chair in Art, the first two endowed positions in the School of Art and Design at Alfred University. In honor of his lifelong friendship with Wayne Higby, the director of the Alfred Ceramic Art Museum, Miller endowed the directorship in his name.

            “Through our strategic planning process, we identified improved residence halls as a need for the University,” Zupan noted. Miller made a gift to renovate Tefft Residence Hall, in honor of Phillip Tefft ’38, who was chairman of the Board of Trustees when Miller joined the board. Miller has often credited Tefft with teaching him what it is to be a philanthropist. Miller has subsequently made two additional gifts to support residence hall renovations.

            “I can enumerate the major gifts Marlin has made to the University, but what only a handful of us remember is that Marlin is quick to write a check when he sees other needs at the University, not just the ‘big stuff,’” Zupan noted.

            “But beyond his leadership, beyond his generosity, there are dozens of Alfred University faculty, staff and alumni, who are proud to call Marlin Miller a friend,” said Zupan.