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Miller, Patricia

Published onJul 30, 2021
Miller, Patricia

(September 11, 1949 — August 15, 2021 )

Quick Facts

Director of ISU Lectures Program for multiple decades, Patricia Miller built the program to a nationally recognized level.

Source: Inside Iowa State, Sept. 21, 2017

When Pat Miller was 12 years old, she wanted to be a writer. In retrospect, she has always had an affinity for words…both written and spoken. And although she has had success as a writer, with the publishing of her “interesting” greeting cards and a couple of journal articles, her professional career has been built on her commitment to the spoken word and the power it has to change attitudes, beliefs, and actions.

Pat was born September 11, 1949. She grew up in Des Moines, Iowa, and attended St. Pius elementary school and graduated from St. Joseph’s Academy in 1967. After high school, Pat attended Grandview College in Des Moines, marrying Kemp Miller in 1968. She transferred to Drake University where she worked as a secretary for the associate dean of Drake Law School.

In 1973, she and her husband Kemp moved from Des Moines to Ames. Pat took a position at the Iowa State University Press as Assistant to the Director. Their daughter, Megan, was born in 1974.

Pat transferred to Iowa State University when she moved to the University Honors Program in 1975. She left the University employment in 1977 at the time of Lauren, her second daughter’s birth. However, Pat continued to take ISU courses and graduated in 1980 with her Bachelor’s degree in Psychology.

In 1981 Pat was looking for work and there was an opening for an assistant with the University Lectures Program under the direction of Dr. James Lowrie, the English Department faculty member who had overseen the Program for twenty-five years. This Program was a unit within the Vice President for Academic Affairs (now the Office of the Provost).

Programs in the Vice President’s office had a consistent structure, still in place today. Each is headed by faculty named by the Provost’s Office for a part-time, limited term appointment, with support staff to help carry out the duties of the program. The faculty member is the chair of the committee which is comprised of faculty, staff and students, allowing for broad representation and multiple voices in the selection and approval of speakers invited to come to campus.

At the time of Pat’s hire there were three related programs, similar in structure to the Lectures Program, but focusing on a targeted theme: Institute on World Affairs; Institute on National Affairs, and Focus (featuring the visual, written, spoken and performance arts). Focus has since been moved to the College of Design.

The hire of Pat Miller turned out to be the future of the Lectures Program. Her original assistance included helping to schedule speakers, coordinate their travel and speaking schedules, and facilitate their activities while on campus. Pat’s skills were immediately apparent and when Dr. Lowrie retired in 1982, Pat had so absorbed the mission, purpose, and operations of the University Lectures Program that she became the point person for the Program, although there still continues to be a faculty chair named by the Office of the Provost.

As a voracious reader of The Atlantic, The New Yorker, the New York Times, etc., and as a listener to NPR and talk show television, Pat has a knack for knowing speakers whose voices and topics of importance are ones the students should hear. Over her career, Pat has developed a loyal and strong network of talent agents. She also has the remarkable talent for convincing speakers to come to Iowa State. Pat’s hook is how important it is for the students at Iowa State to have the opportunity to see, hear and be able to exchange dialogue with these informed voices.

The Lectures and Institutes are primarily funded by Iowa State University fees. Pat never lost sight that University Lectures series and the Institutes should include students in the process of selecting, hosting, and introducing the speakers. Hundreds of students have been able to have one-on-one contact with the speakers, including serving as the speaker’s driver to and from the airport, escorting the speaker around campus, and interacting with the speaker at dinners prior to the lecture. The standard Lectures policy mandates that the Lectures are free and open to the public and that there is an open question and answer period after the lecture. And that direct student contact, whether the student is part of one of the Committees, or one who is in the audience, but gets to ask a question, is the hallmark of ISU’s nationally-recognized Lectures Program.

While the University Lectures Program was a well-regarded program on the Iowa State campus, Pat raised the visibility of the Program and it is now a nationally recognized university speakers program, receiving the International Platform Association’s Drew Pearson Award for excellence in university lecture programming in 1986 and the National Association of Campus Activities Award in 1987. Pat partners with ISU colleges, departments, programs, outside community and regional funders to pool dollars required for the speakers’ fees. It must be noted that Pat also has the ability to negotiate lower fees for speakers who are “out of the reach” of the ISU funding sources.

Pat recognized the tremendous opportunity for creating a center stage project for Iowa State. In 1987 Pat implemented the Presidential Caucus Series. Since Iowa is the first presidential caucus, it is a prime location for candidates or their representatives to initiate their serious run for President. This Series has provided students, faculty, and community members with an opportunity to question presidential candidates or their representative before the precinct caucuses.

Pat has accomplished another very important aspect for the Lectures Program. She has never, ever compromised the integrity or quality of the program, the speakers, the student government who financially supports the program, or Iowa State University. The program has had and continues to have the full gamut of speakers: ones who are well-known; ones who are lesser-known but have important concepts to present; ones who are controversial, and ones who speak to our souls. This combination of integrity and diversity of speakers is what makes a university the marketplace of ideas and that happens right here on ISU’s campus!

Miller retired in 2017. As a surprise for Miller it was announced by Liz Beck, retired member of the Committee on Lectures, that a ‘Patricia Miller lectures fund’ was set up over the 2017 summer with the assistance of the Office of the Provost and the ISU Foundation. After reaching out to 600 of Miller’s former students, faculty and committee members all the way back from 1982 the fund was able to achieve $25,000 when it was announced in 2017.

Pat Ann Miller died Sunday, Aug. 15, 2021 from complications due to ALS, which she had gracefully battled for several years.

Selected Sources

“Five Questions for the Face of the Lectures Program”, by Ann Krapfl, Inside Iowa State, Sept. 21, 2017.

“Pat Miller: A legend in lectures,” by Austin Anderson, Iowa State Daily, Sep 28, 2016.

Parks Library Preservation Blog, “Celebrated Former Director Pat Miller…”, online at


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