In January, the University of Lynchburg received a gift of $386,250 from the estate of Clara Lee Miller ’49.
Miller, a longtime guidance counselor who died in 2006, had a heart for helping students, particularly needy ones. At Lynchburg, her gift will be used to fund scholarships for women and minority students and strengthen the University’s equity and inclusion efforts.
In addition to the scholarships, Miller’s gift will help fund programming for Dimensions of Diversity, a new residential community for first-year students that will be located on the first floor of Montgomery Hall starting in the fall of 2019.
“This gift was such a wonderful surprise,” Aaron Smith, Lynchburg’s diversity and inclusion officer, said. “My mind immediately began thinking of ways in which we could honor Ms. Miller’s wishes to benefit today’s students on our campus.”
Before she retired in the late 1980s, Miller served as director of guidance for the School for the Creative and Performing Arts, a magnet school located in Cincinnati, Ohio’s struggling Over-the-Rhine neighborhood.
Her “big thing” was “college entry and helping artistic and neighborhood kids who didn’t have the same goals as academic kids,” Miller’s longtime partner Frances Haas told a Cincinnati newspaper in 2006.
After leaving SCPA, Miller started a program she called STP, borrowing the name from a commercial gas additive. It involved tutoring, field trips, life coaching, and other experiential-learning activities. As Haas put it, STP was aimed at giving students “a little oomph — a little edge where they didn’t have it.”
Haas added that Miller “would have wanted to have been known as somebody who helped. She always said she came into this world to help save it.”
A member of the Hopwood Society and recipient of the 1994 T. Gibson Hobbs Memorial Award, Miller stated in her will that after Haas’ death, which occurred in December 2018, three-quarters of her estate was to be donated to her alma mater.
The funds were designated “for use as the governing board of the college determines in (1) providing scholarship aid for women and minority students, and (2) supporting diversity and minority growth within the college, such as by sponsoring seminars or speakers or providing grants to faculty to assist in such areas.”
“She was an amazing woman with a passion for diversity, equity, and inclusion, as evidenced by her life’s work,” Smith said. “This gift will ensure that her work will continue through the development of scholarships and programming for minorities and women.
“It truly has the ability to change the lives of our deserving students. This gift will help us to increase our efforts toward a more diverse and inclusive environment on the University of Lynchburg’s campus.”
Scholarships from Miller’s estate will be awarded during the University’s financial aid award process.