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Miller grants earmarked for town/gown

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A love for Antioch College and Yellow Springs led longtime village residents Nolan and Richard Miller to leave a legacy that benefits both. That legacy, a bequest of $3 million to the Yellow Springs Community Foundation for the purpose of funding community service by Antioch College students, will be launched next fall with the first class of students of the revived Antioch College.

The Miller Fellowship grants will fund the yearlong work and co-op experience of 10 Antioch College students who choose to work in local nonprofits.

“I see the Miller program as transformative, both for the college and for the village,” said Bruce Bradtmiller, president of the foundation, which is administering the Miller Endowment grants.

“Clearly the college is re-inventing itself, and the Millers’ vision of a close town-gown relationship fits in very nicely with what the college is trying to do now,” Bradtmiller wrote in a recent e-mail. “As for the nonprofits in the village, funding from a variety of sources is getting harder and harder to access, so having some helping hands from eager young people will go a long way toward strengthening the local organizations that have been hurt by the economic downturn.”

Last month the foundation announced the local nonprofit recipients of the Miller grants, which are the Yellow Springs Arts Council, the Yellow Springs Community Access TV, Glen Helen Ecology Institute, Home, Inc., Yellow Springs Senior Citizens, Tecumseh Land Trust, Yellow Springs Tree Committee, WYSO, Yellow Springs school district and YS Kids Playhouse.

The Miller grants will fund students for 10 hours a week of work for the first two academic quarters, and then fulltime for the third quarter, which will be the new students’ first co-op experience, according to Antioch College Director of Work Susan Ecklund-Leen in a recent interview. All new Antioch students are being required to work 10 hours weekly.

Having an Antioch student funded for three quarters allows the young person to get to know the nonprofit and the people involved deeply, according to Home Assistance Program director Amy Crawford, whose organization, which provides support for local elders living in their homes, will receive the funding as part of the senior center. A student might end up visiting a home-bound elder on a regular basis, do correspondence, play music or just listen.

“The biggest thing is just being there to develop a relationship with the person,” Crawford said.

The Miller grants will allow Tecumseh Land Trust to have an extra body to help organize a new program focused on local food production, according to TLT head Krista Magaw. The student will visit farms within a three-hour radius and help organize seminars and events on the topic, Magaw said, and in some cases, the student would be the lead organizer of an event.

“This is a whole new thing for us, a welcome opportunity,” Magaw said.

The Miller grant will also increase capacity for the Yellow Springs Tree Committee, according to committee member Anna Bellisari. The student will help the all-volunteer committee in a variety of ways, including assisting with tree plantings in the spring and fall, mapping local trees, assisting with new tree selections and possibly researching the effects of climate change on the health of local trees.

“It will be nice to have a younger person help us,” Bellisari said.

The Miller bequest specified that the proceeds from the endowment should benefit Antioch College students who showed an interest in performing public service in the village, according to Bradtmiller, who said from that directive, the foundation trustees determined that awarding grants to students to work in local nonprofits would be a way to accomplish the Millers’ objective.

The foundation held a meeting for nonprofits earlier this year to provide information about the grants, and 27 nonprofits applied for a student worker by describing the student’s potential role in the organization, according to foundation trustee Jane Baker. All of the foundation trustees ranked the applications, and the highest ranking organizations were chosen, Baker said, stating that the trustees also tried to keep in mind the Miller brothers’ interests when choosing.

The Miller brothers, who were born in Kalida, Ohio, and later lived in Detroit, lived together in the Yellow Springs community for 55 years. A longtime Antioch College literature professor, Nolan came first in 1946 after being hired by the college as writer-in-residence, according to Antioch College archivist Scott Sanders. He taught until his retirement in 1972, but stayed active as the fiction editor of The Antioch Review for many years, and also taught the Rod Serling writing seminars on campus in the 1970s. He died in 2006.

Deaf since the age of 15 months, Richard joined his brother in Yellow Springs in 1954, after studying art as a student, and then apprenticing at the Art Students League in New York City. Primarily a painter, Richard experimented with a variety of media, including printmaking, sculpture and pottery, He died in 2009.

The Miller bequest totals more than $3 million, an amount that doubles the assets of the Community Foundation, according to Baker.

“Everyone was stunned that they had that kind of money,” Sanders said.

As soon as Antioch receives commitments from its incoming students, Ecklund-Leen will begin to communicate with them, she said. The students will receive descriptions of the nonprofit jobs, and the nonprofits will receive résumés of the students. Both the students and employers will select their top three choices, and before the first day of class at the beginning of October, assignments will have been made.

The legacy of the Miller brothers is an exciting opportunity for both the college and the community, she believes.

“I think the Miller grants will be instrumental in deepening the relationship between the college and the village,” said Ecklund-Leen. “It’s so important to give back to the village and the region.”




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