Central Connecticut State University President Emeritus John “Jack” W. Miller, a long-time educator and advocate for underrepresented populations in higher education and a devoted Blue Devil to the end, died on Monday, April 2. He was 70 years old.

Dr. Miller served as CCSU’s 12th president for 11 years before retiring in September 2016. Soon after, he and his wife Barbara relocated from Farmington, Conn., to Belleair, Fla., to enjoy retirement and spend more time with their family.

“We are greatly saddened to hear of President Miller’s passing. Our hearts go out to his wife, Barbara, their three children, and their grandchildren,” Zulma R. Toro, CCSU President, shared in an email to the campus community on Monday.

“Although I did not know Dr. Miller personally, I have a deep sense of appreciation for his unwavering leadership at Central, for all that he accomplished on behalf of his students, faculty, and staff, and for his enthusiastic devotion as a member of the Blue Devil family. His legacy will be realized and remembered for generations to come,” Dr. Toro said.

Dr. Miller, first and foremost a devoted husband, brother, father, and grandfather, is survived by his wife, Barbara (Pia), formerly of Farmington, Conn., and siblings, Mike DiSilvestro and wife Liz of Kansas; Charlie DiSilvestro of Iowa; and Ruth DiSilvestro of Kansas. He also leaves behind three children, Raymond Miller and wife Ginger of Kansas; Lauren Kenure Jett of Georgia; and Beth Kenure Powell and husband Jeff of West Virginia; and four grandchildren, Dillon Jett, Derek Jett, Spencer Powell, and Harper Grace Powell.

During Dr. Miller’s presidency, the University reached many significant milestones. Of particular importance to him was the improvement in the university’s six-year graduation rate (from 40 percent in 2005 to 57.3 percent in 2015) and increased minority enrollment (from 11 percent in 2005 to 31 percent in 2015).

Substantial improvements to the physical campus also were made under Dr. Miller's leadership, including new academic buildings, a residence hall, an engineering laboratory, and athletic facilities. In 2007, he was one of the first signatories of the American College and University Presidents' Climate Commitment, leading the way for CCSU’s pledge to achieve environmental sustainability and resulting in the university's designation as a "Green College" by the Princeton Review.
The university’s endowment also substantially increased during Dr. Miller’s tenure, from $20 million in 2005 to $63 million in 2015.

Dr. Miller's scholarly work garnered national awards, including the 2005 Excellence in Diversity award from the Brothers of the Academy for his commitment to access, retention, and graduation of underrepresented students in higher education in 2005, and the Pacesetter Award from the National Academic Advisory Association as CEO of the year in 2003. His publication of the “America's Most Literate Cities” annual ranking earned worldwide media attention. He co-authored a book, “World Literacy: How Countries Rank and Why It Matters,” based on this work in 2016.

Over the years, Dr. Miller was a principal investigator and wrote 19 research and training proposals, which were funded for a total of $4.5 million by state, federal, and private agencies, including the Department of Defense, Department of Education, Bell South Foundation, and Foundation for Improvement of Postsecondary Education. He also served on boards of directors for both private corporations and public nonprofit organizations.

Prior to his arrival in Connecticut in 2005, he served as chancellor at the University of Wisconsin Whitewater; dean of the College of Education at Florida State University; and served as a professor and administrator at Georgia Southern University and Wichita State University.
His contributions to the field of education reach back decades and include teaching in public education from the elementary to doctoral degree levels in the U.S., Costa Rica, England, and South Africa.
He earned a bachelor's degree in journalism from Ohio University, a master's degree in education from Northern Illinois University, and a doctorate degree in education from Purdue University.

Arrangements to honor Dr. Miller are still pending, but it is the wish of the family to hold a memorial service on the CCSU campus this summer.