Marlin Miller’s Magic

There are few honors more deserved than the one which will be bestowed upon Marlin Miller, Jr. ’54 by the American Craft Council at a dinner on October 6 in Minneapolis. Marlin, who has been a member of our Board of Trustees since 1970, will receive the Aileen Osborn Webb Award for Philanthropy for his “exceptional contributions, and support of, the American Craft Council in the field of contemporary craft.”

All of us at Alfred University are well aware of Marlin’s incredible generosity in support of the arts. His gifts have created the Miller Performing Arts Center, the Miller Theater and the Alfred Ceramic Art Museum. He supports endowed professorships including the Robert Turner Chair in Ceramic Art and the Ted Randall International Chair, honoring two past faculty members in the School of Art and Design who were legendary figures in the world of ceramic art. To honor a lifetime of friendship with Wayne Higby, professor of ceramic art and director of the Museum, he created an endowed directorship of the Museum in Wayne’s name. Marlin also commissioned Wayne’s masterpiece EarthCloud for our Miller theater.

Marlin’s remarkable generosity to Alfred University is felt in a myriad of ways. He endowed the Fred Gertz Chair in Technical Writing and created the Fred Gertz Center for Student Success to demonstrate the respect and affection he had for Gertz, who was a professor of English and then, dean of men, when Marlin was a student. Marlin has created endowed scholarships in honor of two friends, fellow alumni, and Alfred University trustees who passed away while serving on the Board, Albert Paladino ’54 and Joel Moskowitz ’61. His steadfast and significant support of our dance program, headed by Chase Angier, has been remarkable. While we all benefit from Marlin’s generosity, literally hundreds of students over the years have benefited directly, through endowed scholarships Marlin has created.

His most recent gift honors the memory of Phillip Tefft ’39, his mentor when he first joined our Board of Trustees and the person Marlin credits with educating him about the impact philanthropy can have on the institutions it supports. In Tefft’s memory, Marlin made a gift to renovate Tefft Hall, and now, has committed to creating a two-story link between Moskowitz and Tefft Halls that will allow us to do some innovative and creative things with our Residence Life programming.

The idea for the connection between the two buildings arose from our students, and we are in the process of identifying an appropriate name for the community-building space. Typical of Marlin, we showed a sketch of the proposed connector at a strategic planning retreat in Rochester last month and, before the end of the meeting, Marlin had stepped forward with a philanthropic commitment to make it a reality and the expressed desire to bring the innovation to fruition by next fall.

 Tefft Hall Link

On top of all the other gifts he has made to the University, Marlin is a stalwart in supporting the Alfred Fund and the Strategic Investment Fund through our Saxon Circle. His immediate response to our initial appeal was to offer such generous support that we had to increase our notions of what might be possible through those initiatives.

You’ll notice a common theme through all of Marlin’s gifts to Alfred University: All are from the heart. He honors the people he cares about and our University, who brought them all together.

That is the pattern he has followed in supporting other causes and other institutions. The American Craft Council could not have chosen a better recipient for its Aileen Osborn Webb Award.

As noted above, one of Marlin’s gifts allowed us to build the Alfred Museum of Ceramic Art and to appoint Wayne Higby, an internationally acclaimed artist, educator and visionary, as its director.

An upcoming exhibition, “Reclaiming Splendor: Ceramic Design by Chunmao Huang,” proves the Museum is living up to Marlin’s expectations by bringing us a truly spectacular showing of work by one of our alumni. Chunmao earned an MFA degree from Alfred University in 2003. The opening reception will be 5-8 p.m. Thursday, September 20, and the exhibition will continue through December 30. It will feature the banquet-ware Chunmao designed for the First Lady of China and will mark the first time it has been displayed outside of China, quite a coup for our Museum!

Relaiming Splendor 

Chunmao first came to the attention of international ceramic designers when a specially designed set of banquet-ware was used for an official state dinner hosted by Xi Jinping, president of the People’s Republic of China, during the 22nd annual Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit held in November 2014 in Beijing.

The opening reception is only one of a number of complementary events surrounding the exhibition. Chunmao will deliver a talk, “Rediscovering Traditional Chinese Culture,” at 4:30 p.m. on September 20, in Room C of Binns-Merrill Hall. Later that evening, during the opening reception, Zhongbei “Daisy” Wu, associate director of the Confucius Institute and a visiting associate professor of music, will present a Guzheng performance of “Flowers and Moonlit Night on Spring River.”

The 16th annual Perkins Lecture, to be presented at 4:30 p.m. on October 10 in the Nevins Theater, Powell Campus Center, will feature Denise Patry Leidy, the Ruth and Bruce Dayton Curator of Asian Art at the Yale University Art Gallery, speaking on “Back-and-Forth: Chinese and Global Clay, 17th-21st Century.” The lecture will be live-streamed as part of the celebration of the Global Day of Clay.

This is an historic exhibition and something for us to celebrate. I hope you are able to attend one of the events or watch the live-stream of the Perkins Lecture.

Please join me in congratulating Marlin Miller on the honor that is being bestowed upon him by the American Craft Council next month and in thanking him for all that he continues to do to make the extraordinary possible at our University.