After more than 53 years of devoted service to WKU, Professor of English Mary Ellen Miller will transition to a new stage of her career on Jan. 1. Miller began teaching at WKU in 1963; moving forward, she will teach half-time and devote more of her time to writing. Miller is the longest-serving member of the faculty and has logged more years at the institution than any professor on record.
When asked about Miller’s work at WKU, President Gary A. Ransdell said: “Professor Miller has been the consummate school leader at WKU for five decades. Her passion for English, literature and poetry is exemplary, and her personality is delightful. Her service on the WKU Board of Regents was remarkable at a critical time in WKU’s growth. She is a WKU treasure!”
Miller served two productive terms as Faculty Regent, one in the 1980s and one in the 1990s, advocating for faculty and students and the improvement of higher education in the Commonwealth. Provost and Vice President of Academic Affairs David Lee commented, “Throughout her career, Mary Ellen has been a champion for diversity, inclusion and tolerance on our campus, and her work has made WKU a stronger institution.”
Miller is also a founder of the Center for Robert Penn Warren Studies at WKU, and without her tenacity and creativity, the Center would not have been created in 1987. Dr. Rob Hale, Head of English and Co-Director of the RPW Center, noted: “From the inception of the idea for a center devoted to one of Kentucky’s favorite sons, to soliciting the Warren family to make RPW’s personal library the Center’s crown jewel, to organizing the spectacular RPW Centennial Celebration in 2005, Mary Ellen Miller has been the center of the RPW Center.”
Miller also initiated the Jim Wayne Miller Celebration at WKU, an event honoring the influence of her late husband, a major Appalachian poet and member of the Kentucky Writers Hall of Fame. The annual event celebrates creative writing in Kentucky and has brought nationally renowned writers such as Sally Bingham, Silas House and Ed McClanahan to lead student workshops and to present their work at WKU. Miller hosted the 20th iteration in October.
Miller has also been a productive writer and editor, publishing many poems, reviews and literary essays. In 2011, her collection of poems The Poet’s Wife Speaks won the Old Seventy Creek Press Poetry Prize. In 2014 she and collaborator Morris Allen Grubbs edited Every Leaf A Mirror: A Jim Wayne Miller Reader, which won a Weatherford Award as one of the best books on Appalachian culture for 2014.
First and foremost, Professor Miller has been an outstanding creative writing and literature teacher, touching the lives of countless students over her tenure. Provost Lee commented: “Mary Ellen’s work has been marked by an unswerving commitment to good writing and good teaching in her half-century of service. Her students have had the opportunity to work with a truly legendary figure.”
Dr. Hale elaborated: “Students from 30 years ago and just last year have offered similar high praise for her teaching and powerful stories of her support. I am thrilled that she will continue to teach half-time and that future students will benefit from her tutelage. The legend continues!”
Contact: Rob Hale, (270) 745-3043