As Mercyhurst North East (MNE) prepares to celebrate its 20-year anniversary, another milestone will be observed during this spring’s commencement exercises when the college bestows its first honorary degree upon longtime friend and benefactor Robert S. Miller of North East. Miller will be awarded the Doctor of Laws degree, honoris causa, duringMNE’s graduation on Saturday, May 21, at 1 p.m. in Liguori Fieldhouse.
Robert S. Miller
It’s nearly impossible to imagine Mercyhurst North East without the generosity of Bob Miller. It was Miller who initially provided the financial backing in 1990 for Mercyhurst College to purchase the 110-year-old landmark St. Mary’s Seminary property in the heart of North East, previously home to the Redemptorist Fathers.
In 1991, the campus opened with 53 students and 20 years later it boasts an enrollment of more than 1,000 and has developed its programming to include 24 associate degrees and seven certificates. Through those two decades of growth, Miller has remained the college’s primary benefactor and champion of one- and two-year education at Mercyhurst North East.
“Without Bob’s help for the past 20 years, I know for certain that the thousands of students who have passed through our gates would not have received the quality, life-changing education they did,” said Dr. Gary Brown, executive vice president of Mercyhurst North East. “I cannot think of a major step we have taken that did not significantly involve Bob and his family. He has helped the campus and all who attended grow to new and magnificent heights. I am proud to call him a friend.”
As chairman and owner of Better Baked Foods, a company he co-founded in 1969, Miller is blessed with an abundance of resources. Being a strong believer in philanthropy, he often favors contributions made as “challenge grants” from the Robert S. and Janet L. Miller Family Foundation. He makes the case that “matching grants” make recipients work harder and smarter for the donation, thereby growing professionally and personally, while also extending the ripple effect of philanthropy.
Twice he presented $1 million challenge grants to Mercyhurst North East, first to establish an endowment that has since reached $2.17 million, and then to purchase the former First National Bank building on Station Road to house a number of the college’s growing programs.
While his contributions continue to foster the strategic future of Mercyhurst North East, Miller has granted significant funding since 1991 to 60 other nonprofit groups and organizations with a focus on those programs that promote leadership, individual responsibility and educational enhancement.
Miller and his wife Janet have seven adult children: Christopher Miller, Julie Griffith, Jeffrey Croscut-Miller and Michele Giesen, all of North East; Katherine Miller of Lee, Mass.; Mark Miller of Longmont, Colo; and Rebecca Miller of Columbus, Ohio.