Motivating Students

J. Robert Miller

McMurry Art Professor J. Robert Miller possessed enormous artistic talents; but even more, he possessed a talent for motivating his students to achieve their best. During his more than 40 years as a member of the art faculty, Professor J. Robert Miller touched the lives of hundreds of McMurry students.

One of those fortunate students and her husband recently established a scholarship to benefit future students in honor of J. Robert Miller’s legacy.

The former student, who wishes to remain anonymous, has always cherished her McMurry experience and dreamed of giving back to her alma mater. When the opportunity came along to do so, “we snatched it up.”

She asked that the scholarship honor Miller, who was central in helping her find her love for art at McMurry. She arrived on campus like many students – not sure what she wanted to major in -when her roommate suggested she take a class from Miller. Despite being frightened by Miller’s reputation as a tough teacher, she decided to take the class.

Miller’s demeanor and calm personality quieted her fears and he was always available to help her learn even though “I knew nothing about painting.”

After a particularly tough day in class, she went to Miller and asked him, “Should I get out of the class now?” Miller assured her that given the choice between two students – one with natural ability and one who doesn’t know anything, he would rather teach the one who knows nothing about art because “they are hungry to learn.”

That first art class led her to a lifetime love for painting and a career path teaching the arts.  She went on to teach art at the public school and college level as well as teaching English.

She has continued to paint “as life has allowed” and still remembers Miller’s advice on painting landscapes in her favorite medium – transparent watercolors. “He told me to imagine the scene in my mind as it would look in transparent watercolors” before starting a project.

Years later, their daughter came to McMurry. “The first thing she did was find Mr. Miller and tell him she had heard about him all her life.”

“I would visit him when we came to campus and he would have his wife, who suffered from Alzheimer’s, with him. He was still teaching us, but this time the lesson was how to deal with adversity,” the donor said.

The donor wants this scholarship to help students realize their hopes and dreams as she did at McMurry.

“If you’ve set your goal and you are determined, get in there and do it. If you can’t seem to do it because there’s no money, we hope this scholarship will help.”