Miller Inaugurated

Dr. Fayneese Miller makes history as first African American president of Hamline.

Board of Trustee Member John Banovetz  presents  President Miller with the Mace on Oct. 2.

Cole Mayer

Board of Trustee Member John Banovetz presents President Miller with the Mace on Oct. 2.

Rikka Bakken, Editor-in-Chief

As of Friday, October 2, Dr. Fayneese Miller was formally installed as Hamline’s twentieth president. Her appointment to this position of leadership of the university makes history.

As Miller’s mentor and colleague, Dr. Edmund W. Gordon stated bluntly, “Yes friends, your new president is a woman. And she is black. And she is as smart as a whip.”

Miller is the second woman president of Hamline, and the first African American to take on the role. The weight of this responsibility was not ignored by the speakers at the inauguration ceremony.

“As the first African American president of the university, Fayneese’s every action will be scrutinized with great interest,” said Ruth Simmons, former president of Brown University. “She must be afforded the freedom to express not only her opinion, but also her authentic and unique self. At the same time, expect and demand much of her, for it is your [the Hamline community’s] high expectations that will challenge her most.”

Simmons also had a word of advice for Miller in light of this scrutiny.

“I urge you not to be drawn into the dilemma of being the first African American to occupy this role,” said Simmons. “It is enough to walk this path honestly, faithfully and honorably. If you do that, your actions will tell the only story required to be told about how one serves from a position of difference.”

Coming from a “position of difference” is something Miller is familiar with. Growing up the daughter of civil rights workers in Virginia, Miller was taught at a young age the importance of demanding justice. That seeking civil justice was the duty of every citizen.

“I learned from them [my parents], that no matter what life threw my way, what obstacles were placed in my way, that I was part of a democracy. A civil society. And to never take for granted what that means,” said Miller. “They told me all the time…to speak up, when the urge was there to remain silent. Because silence meant that I was giving my voice to someone else. I was giving my rights to someone else.”

Those who spoke at the ceremony commented on Miller’s dedication to ensuring equal opportunities for all students. Governor Mark Dayton specifically commended Miller’s “personal wisdom, her professional experience, her passion for inclusive education and her commitment to making college accessible to all students.” A passion which, if true, fits in well with Professor John Mazis’ definition of Hamline’s mission.

“We are an institution dedicated to the education of the sons and daughters of the middle and working class,” said Mazis. “We are committed to educate the 99% of the people because the 1% has plenty of opportunities elsewhere. Although they and their tuition dollars are welcome here anytime.”

All jokes aside, Mazis elaborated on this mission further.

“The bottom line is we take our students as they come, where we find them, and we help them see the world under a different light, and in the process they discover strengths and talents even they did not know that they had,” said Mazis. “This is the true mission of Hamline University, and it is a daunting one.”

Miller’s inaugural address emphasized  the importance of higher education in fostering not just those talents possessed by students, but also  in fostering a commitment to civic engagement. Quoting the words of John Wesley, Miller reminded the audience of the institution’s dedication to helping others and seeking justice.

“Hamline is about people. Hamline is about community. Hamline is about doing all that we can, whenever we can, for as long as we can, for someone else,” said Miller.

To return to what Gordon said of Miller as being “sharp as a whip,” Gordon also iterated that she has a thoughtful approach to decision making.

“Her judgements are made with sensitivity to the possible consequences for real people who will be affected. But be careful now. Don’t take this concern for people and the softer kinds of data that are important in making decisions, don’t think that means she’s a pushover,” said Gordon. “Intellectually and operationally she can be a tough cookie.”

Further expressing his regard for Miller, Gordon entrusted her to the care of the Hamline community.

“I hope you will embrace her. I pray that you will nurture her. I know that you will grow to cherish her as I do,” said Gordon.

If words are to be believed, she already cherishes the Hamline community.

“Students, you know I love you,” said Miller.

You can view the entire Installation Ceremony at