NYU Steinhardt News

Metro Center’s founder, LaMar P. Miller dies at 92

“There is no black prose or art of any kind that does not carry the message of a struggle. There is no song that is not at once joyous and sad. The classicism of Countee Cullen, the dialect of Paul Lawrence Dunbar, the rhythm of Langston Hughes and James Baldwin, expose the souls of Black children to themselves and, on occasion, to the larger world. The strengths of Black children revolve around these different messages and around life and love in all its variations. Much of the incentive for learning will come from school activities’ intrinsic interest plus an understanding of the strengths of those whom we work. The recognition that these strengths exist in the Black child is as important as the need for children to be admired, approved, accepted and loved. And speaking of love, the most important strength that lies beneath a child’s Black skin is love. After all, isn’t that what children are all about?”

LaMar P. Miller, “The Strengths of the Black Child,” May 1973 (Instructor Magazine)

These words of Professor LaMar P. Miller are a reflection of his career in education, which has been profoundly influenced by his belief in equality and his understanding of children. He vividly recalls the morning of May 17, 1954. “I was in a social studies class when the professor entered the classroom and said, ‘The Supreme Court has made a momentous decision that you will never forget,’” he recalled. Inspired by the Brown decision, which overturned the Court’s 1896 Plessy v. Ferguson ruling and barred racial segregation in public schools, Professor Miller has devoted much of his life to ensuring that Brown’s promise is fulfilled.

Fulfilling the mandate of the decision has been Professor Miller’s goal. He and his colleagues have tracked the progress of the Brown decision through four decennial conferences, beginning in 1974 with “Brown Plus Twenty.” He and his staff are the only group to have studied Brown in the manner by bringing it to the attention of a national audience.

Pedro Noguera, Metro’s second Executive Director, continued the tradition through “Brown Plus Sixty” in 2014.

David Kirkland, Metro Center’s current Executive Director, paid the following befitting tribute to Miller:

"It is with a heavy heart that I write to inform you of the passing of NYU Metro Center’s inaugural executive director, Dr. Lamar Miller. 

Dr. Miller passed in his sleep on Wednesday night at the age of 92. Dr. Miller’s persistence of vision and quiet but concerted efforts laid the foundations for the center we now call home. He had a heart of service, and planted and cultivated seeds of hope throughout New York City and beyond. 

Fondly, I had a chance earlier this year to break bread with Dr. Miller on two occasions. We laughed, and I listened. Dr. Miller told stories of beginnings and shared hopeful plans for our Center’s future. A fire, indeed, burned fervently in his eyes; a quiet strength rested boldly in the bass of his voice. He humbly served as an advisor for a center he had started. But more importantly, he remained a friend to many of us continuing a work inspired by his vision. 

Let our commitments celebrate his life. Let the assembly of our congregation serve only to advance the education equity work he began almost 40 years ago. Moreover, as Metro Center commemorates 40 years of existence in service of educational liberation, let us remember Dr. Miller. Please honor him by connecting your individual efforts to those things that will always be bigger than any one of us: justice and opportunity, hope and healing.

The memorial service for Dr. Miller will be held at noon on Friday, November 3, 2017, at The Unitarian Church of All Souls, 1157 Lexington Avenue, between 79th and 80th streets. A reception will follow.

Please continue to be kind to another, for in truth this work is never really about things or even ideals. It is about people; it’s always been about people—those with whom we get to share our efforts and those with whom laugh and love."