University of Maine journalism students will be able to get the inside scoop from veteran reporters thanks to a new fund established by alumna Anne Lucey in memory of her late husband, Alan Miller, who taught journalism at UMaine for more than two decades.
The Alan Miller Fund for Excellence in Communication and Journalism will revive a lecture series from the 1970′s and 1980′s in which outstanding journalists came to UMaine to give talks, attend classes and offer valuable career advice and insight. Students were able to hone their craft with journalistic icons such as Rushworth Kidder, then editorial page editor for the Christian Science Monitor, and David Lamb, then foreign correspondent for the Los Angeles Times.
A member of the faculty from 1967 to 1991, Miller was chair of the journalism department and advisor for the student newspaper. He was an enthusiastic supporter and coordinator of the lecture series which enabled experienced journalists to motivate and excite aspiring reporters.
Lucey, who earned a degree in journalism from UMaine in 1982, recalls how students looked forward to hearing the reporters reminisce about their journalistic exploits.
“Interacting with working journalists who go into the classroom, help with writing skills and tell war stories can be a powerful thing,” she says. “It was for me.”
Senior vice president for regulatory policy at CBS Corporation in Washington, D.C., Lucey says her goal now is to celebrate her husband’s love of journalism and teaching.
“UMaine brought together everything he loved.”
Lucey’s generous gift will “develop a new tradition for a new generation of journalism students, maintain and strengthen the Communication and Journalism Department’s connection to the Maine Press Association, and keep alive Professor Miller’s work of connecting students with successful professionals,” says John Sherblom, chair of the department.
Noting Miller’s “enormous impact on the lives and careers of his students,” UMaine President Robert Kennedy says he is “delighted and tremendously thankful that Anne Lucey has chosen to honor her late husband with a gift that will benefit our journalism students for many generations to come.”
Journalism Professor Kathryn Olmstead, who helped coordinate the visiting writer program, says she is pleased that it’s making a comeback because it had been a valuable addition to the curriculum.
“These successful journalists were extremely inspiring. They would talk about their achievements and serve as professional role models for students who would ask questions about their work and their experiences.”
Author of “The History of Current Maine Newspapers,” Miller was familiar with almost every daily and weekly newspaper in the state and so was able to help students obtain summer internships and jobs after they graduated, Olmstead says.
He was committed to staying in touch with real-world journalism himself, she adds. Long after he was a full professor he continued to work in newsrooms during the summer and on sabbaticals.
“He believed he should keep up with a profession transformed by technology in order to be an effective teacher.”
Stories about Miller still circulate, according to Ann Leffler, dean of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences. “What I hear was how he mentored students and encouraged them to become journalists and to believe they had stories to tell. He reminded them journalism was a calling and encouraged them to heed that calling and its high standards.”
Miller was indeed a guiding force, former students agree.
“He’s the reason I’m now into journalism,” says Steve Betts, who grew up in Stonington, earned a journalism degree from UMaine in 1981, and is now editor of the Courier Gazette in Rockland.
“He was passionate about his profession and transferred that passion to me.”
Steve Olver, a Hampden native who also graduated in 1981 with a degree in journalism, says Miller was a gifted teacher who enjoyed working one on one with his students.
“He was such a pro — he’d go over everything and really explain the craft of writing,” says Olver, design editor at the Colorado Springs Gazette.
Her late husband was the quintessential newsman, says Lucey. Publisher and editor of the Amherst (Massachusetts) Journal which he purchased after graduating from Boston University in 1952, he subsequently worked for a number of other newspapers including the European edition of Stars and Stripes. An overseas correspondent for the Springfield (Massachusetts) Union Leader, he covered the fall of the Berlin Wall.
As advisor for the UMaine student newspaper, he loved editing students’ writing and “probably knew more about what was happening on campus than anybody,” Lucey says.
“He read all these stories from all these kids who were out reporting, whether their articles made the newspaper or not.”
A lover of words, her husband often perused the dictionary for entertainment and was rarely without a notebook and a pen to record observations about the world around him.
“The written word was his life,” she says. “He was always leaving me notes. I’d wake up and there would be a note on the counter. It was his way of starting and ending the day.”
Image Description: Alan Miller