“I could never be a rabble rouser or one that could lead thousands. I want to just have respect for people and for people to respect me.” – Jerry Miller, 2015.
An hour before the opening tip, I felt cold. Chills ran down my entire body, which is unusual considering I knew the Miami RedHawks (21-4, 12-2 MAC) would handle the Bowling Green State University Falcons (8-17, 1-13 MAC).
But I wasn’t nervous about the game, nor did I feel the random game nervousness I felt as a high school athlete.
As I looked behind me in the plush red seats of Millett Hall, I saw my brothers of the Mu Psi chapter of Sigma Alpha Mu. We all felt an indescribable emotion that left us trembling.
We were all experiencing the love, honor and care of our chapter advisor, Jerry Miller, who the world lost a week prior after a three-month battle with a stage-four glioblastoma.
Jerry served as the faculty advisor for Sigma Alpha Mu since 1974, while also acting as assistant chair in the economics department at Miami University. He also served as national scholarship chairman, chairman of the SAM Foundation Scholarship Committee and as a director on the Sigma Alpha Mu Foundation.
He wasn’t just an advisor or a witty economics professor. Jerry was a mentor, a friend and a father figure to over 1,200 actives and alumni of the Mu Psi chapter.
This basketball game celebrated the Love.Honor.Care initiative to raise funds to fight against all cancers, honor the survivors of the disease and educate the community about cancer.
The game and theme couldn’t be more timely for myself and my chapter, because Jerry exemplified all of the characteristics highlighted during that day.
Jerry tended to be stoic, yet you always knew he loved every minute of every day. Whether it was spending time with his husband Jim or active brothers at the chapter house, playing card games with friends or on surprise calls to take brothers to lunch, he understood what it meant to love.
Jerry always took the time to honor a brother who had done something extraordinary — whether it be acing an exam, landing an internship or displaying an act of random kindness, he wanted to honor the achievement.
That is why we, as a chapter, honor Jerry every day by embracing and acting on the values he expressed: manhood, democracy and integrity. His legacy and name live in the chapter’s history forever. He understood what it meant to live an honorable life.
Loving and caring for someone are becoming a lost traits in today’s society (but I think you can figure out who exemplified these to a “T”).
While it could be seen as an annoyance at times, you’d look down at your phone to a random text from Jerry asking how your day was, or just to check in if he hadn’t seen you in a while.
For me, as the house manager, it’d be the daily text or 90-second phone call asking about the condition of the house or, if it was a Monday night, if I had taken the recycling to the curb.
To Jerry, every small interaction had a purpose. It is the trait I admired most about Jerry and one I put at the top of my personal values list. Small acts go a long way, and all you have to do is show that you care. Jerry understood what it meant to care for another human being in a time when so many people don’t feel comfortable sharing their emotions.
“If I see successful results in other people, that success is a part of me.”
The basketball game reminded me, as brothers, we loved Jerry. He helped each and every one of us. Whether we were dealing with family turmoil, suicide, drug addiction, anxiety, the passing of a brother or any other possible scenario, Jerry Miller had seen it before and knew the step-by-step plan on how to deal with it.
It won’t be the same without him, but I will forever picture him sitting in his favorite lobby chair: a faded Persian rug design, right leg sprawled over the right arm rest, correcting everyone’s grammar or slipping in a dirty joke as they walked past.
“Jerry, how are we?” one brother would say.
“Ugh, don’t even get me started,” the son of an English teacher once said.