MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) – Doctor Fayneese Miller is Hamline University’s 20th president, and its first African American president.
After spending most of her collegial life on the east coast, Miller made the move to the Midwest and took over as president last July. On her official inauguration on October 2, 2015, Governor Mark Dayton proclaimed the day “Hamline University President Dr. Fayneese Miller Day.”READ MORE: St. Paul Mayor: City Employees Must Get COVID Vaccine Before End Of 2021
The Danville, Virginia native attributes her childhood to setting the stage for her future. Miller said she was a voracious reader as a kid and continues that trend to this day.
“I read as many books as I could during the summer. I spent my whole days in the library. That to me was a big deal, going to the library. And to this day I always read a book every single day,” Miller said.
Her small south central Virginia community is historically viewed as the last capital of the Confederacy.
“That library (the white library) was the last official place where Jefferson Davis was as the North was closing on the South during the Civil War. And then the library that I had to attend was down the street, maybe about six or seven blocks,” Miller said.
A middle school assignment inspired Miller to study psychology.
“You grow up and you’re told, not by your parents [but] by others, you’re not as good as [white people]. So, when I was in college I began to do work on black self-esteem,” Miller said.
But it was educators who encouraged her early on to dream big.
“What do you think led to your self-confidence?” WCCO’s Ali Lucia said.
“Mrs. Eckles never let me believe that I was less than,” Miller said.
Eckles was Miller’s elementary school teacher.READ MORE: During Resentencing Of Mohamed Noor, Judge Asks: What Changes Have Been Made To Minneapolis Police?
Miller was never afraid to, in her words, take risks.
“I was the only black in many of [the school] clubs, not that others couldn’t join it. The others were afraid to join it,” Miller said.
Her academic credentials are impressive.
Miller went onto Hampton University, a predominantly black college in Hampton, Virginia. Then became the first African American woman to earn a Ph.D. at Texas Christian University, where she studied experimental psychology.
Then it was Yale for post-doctoral work. She stayed out east and married an English teacher, working at Brown University and, most recently, the University of Vermont.
“My biggest joy about this role, and any role I’ve had in higher education, is the students. I love being a part of their life,” Miller said.
And after spending just a few moments with Miller on campus, it’s clear to see she’s earned their respect and admiration.
Joy is just a typical day on campus for Miller as she looks to instill the lessons she learned at young age.
“If I think back on my own experience over the years, starting with nursery school, that’s what teachers did for me. They made me feel as though anything is possible,” Miller said.
Miller was one of the first black students in her community to attend a desegregated high school. She said her parents believed education was the “equalizer” for her and the rest of her siblings. She is one of seven.
She was a member of the Brown University faculty for two decades. There she founded ethnic studies.MORE NEWS: 'Really Disgusting And Elaborate': Alleged Sex Competition Prompts Protest, Investigation At Minnesota College
Miller is also the first African-American female to achieve tenure at Brown University.