Miller retires, but not entirely

After 36 years working at Cornell College, holding positions from football coach to associate director of development, Steve Miller ’65 retired March 31—but he isn’t gone entirely.

Miller’s tenure at Cornell started in 1966, with five years coaching swimming and baseball and serving as assistant football coach. He left Cornell in 1972 and coached at Carroll College in Wisconsin, and then at Morningside College, a Division II institution in Sioux City, Iowa. At Morningside, he realized he would be happier at a Division III school, where he could coach multiple sports and teach as well.

So when he got the chance to come back to Cornell in 1980, he took it. He coached basketball and became the athletic director. In fact, over more than 20 years at Cornell, he coached nearly every men’s sport except wrestling, tennis, and cross-country.

Then, in 1987—the only time he was ever scheduled to take a sabbatical— the football coach resigned. That made Miller head basketball coach, head football coach, and athletic director. After that season, he hired a basketball coach, and was head football coach until he retired from the Athletic Department in 2002.

Many of his favorite memories come from that 15-year stretch, including the 1992 football team that went 10–0, the only such team in Cornell’s history. Oh, and the team’s quarterback was his son, Matt Miller ’94.

“We weren’t a lot better than everybody else,” he said, “but if we played well we could beat anyone.”

Even though the team he said was filled with “tough, smart athletes” didn’t make it to the NCAA playoffs, he took comfort in the fact that only one other NCAA football team in the nation—Alabama, which won the Sugar Bowl that year—was undefeated.

Other happy memories include his time teaching, which gave him a chance to interact with a lot of different students and to set up a special study program in sports management. It was an honor, he said, to work alongside the people who taught him.

By 2002, after more than two decades in the athletic department, it was time for a new challenge: this time in the Office of College Advancement, where his wife, Ruth Keefe Miller ’66, was alumni director. He became an associate director of development in charge of major and planned gifts.

Not long after he started, the college launched its “Extraordinary Opportunities” campaign, which he thinks is important.

“I caught it at the right time,” he said. It’s been a great thing, he added, to see his contemporaries step up and assume a leadership role in supporting the college.

“The future is more solid and bright and promising than I can ever remember it being,” he said.

And Miller will have a place in that future. In May the athletic department announced that he will serve as a special assistant to head football coach Vince Brautigam, who will begin his first season at the helm.