Peter Paul Miller, Alpha Psi 1944
Its Thanksgiving week and I’m supposed to write a blog about my favorite Chi Psi holiday memories and activities, but I can’t. I’m going to write about this instead: late last week on the 19th of November 2015 a wonderful gentleman and Chi Psi Brother passed on from this life. He was my friend Peter.
Peter Paul Miller, Jr., Y `44, was – like me – the son of a Chi Psi. His father, the original bearer of the name, was a member of the Alpha Psi (Cornell) class of 1918. He knew many of the survivors of the 1906 fire, and a good number of his friends were Chi Psis. Peter grew up well and naturally found his way to the Lodge on University Avenue when he entered Cornell. He attended the Fraternity’s Centennial with his father in 1941 as a young undergraduate, and a life-long relationship with the National Fraternity was born.
Peter was a Trustee of The Chi Psi Educational Trust in 1995 when I attended my first Convention at Hamilton College. We didn’t meet then, but I’m sure I noticed him. His dress was classic, and if you’ve attended a Convention business session lately, you’ve seen that it clearly had an effect on me. A few years later I met Peter while working as a first year Central Office staff member. I was a low level pup, but he took a genuine interest in my life and wanted to know my opinions. Peter was like that; he made all whom the routine of life brought into familiar contact feel at ease and important.
A year later Peter was interviewing me with some other Trustees for the new Director of Development position they created. If hired, I would be working with Peter and Pete Schenck – another now-departed Chi Psi legend – as they were the chairs of the Development Committee. They decided to take a chance on me, and it changed my life. Peter was a joy to work with. The coaching he was obligated to provide to a young and inexperienced staffer was delivered with grace, and he taught as much by example as by word. Any success I’ve had raising money for Chi Psi in the years since has been a credit to Peter Miller and the Brothers with whom he chose to connect me.
It was during the first year in this new position that Peter suggested to me that he write to one of his contemporaries, Hank Bartels, R `45, Y `48. Peter penned a sincere solicitation expressing his personal actions to support Chi Psi finically and included a request for Hank to join him. Hank said ‘no’ to the annual fund request, but he suggested a different arrangement. Thanks to Peter’s vision and leadership, Chi Psi has benefited from the immense generosity of the Bartels family ever since, and I gained another mentor and friend in Hank (yet another now-departed Chi Psi legend).
Within a year of Hank’s initial gift, Peter decided to increase his own commitment to the Trust by endowing a scholarship to honor his father. Along with his brother Richard S. Miller, Y `56, and their sister Elizabeth M. Francis, the three children created the Peter Paul Miller Scholarship. Since 2000, 21 Brothers have received support from the Miller Scholarship. Initially a financial award to recognize Alpha Scholarship Chairmen, Miller Scholars now receive a travel grant to fund unique adventures of their choosing. Peter always enjoyed reading about the travels of the young Chi Psis who were honored in his Dad’s memory.
In 2001 the Fraternity held the Convention in Eugene, Oregon, and Peter had the opportunity to meet my father, Bill Bessey, HD `48. Until his death a few years ago, Peter always asked me about him during our talks. Peter was like that; he made all whom the routine of life brought into familiar contact feel a little more sensitive to the finer things in life. Also at that Convention – a special one for me as I attended Oregon – the Fraternity’s Distinguished Service Award was conferred upon Peter. The citation read, in part: “Throughout his life and his Chi Psi experience, Brother Miller has been a model of human kindness. There is no doubt that he has both found and lived ‘the true meaning of Chi Psi.’ It is our good fortune to be able to call this genial Chi Psi gentleman our Brother.”
Truer words I’ve not seen or heard and many like it can be found in Peter’s obituary, which can be found here. Similar tributes found their way to me in the past few days from those with whom Peter journeyed through life. One such note ended with this: “Makes me very sad. Last time we spoke he said he would see me in Williamsburg.” He often said this to me, too, and I know he will be there, still, in a way that passes all understanding.
I give thanks for Peter. For all he’s done for Chi Psi and the greater community and for his friendship to me. I will miss him.
I look forward to seeing several Chi Psis this Saturday November 28, 2015 at 2:00PM at the Swarthmore Presbyterian Church located at 727 Harvard Avenue, Swarthmore, PA 19081 as we celebrate a life well lived.