Honoring a Life of Devotion

Dr. Don Miller was a dedicated surgeon and family man. Helping students was how his family always envisioned that he would like to give back to the University of Kansas Medical Center, his alma mater. 

With that in mind, his wife and six children established and endowed the Geraldine E. Miller and Don R. Miller, M.D. Medical Scholarship. The scholarship is given annually to one student who shows academic excellence and financial need. 

“There was a strong feeling among the whole family that we wanted to provide a scholarship. Don would have wanted to do something for a student,” Gerry Miller said. “He loved working in a university setting, and he had a connection to students. He cherished books, reading, learning and teaching.”

Don Miller, who died in 2010 at age 85, was born in Highland, Kan. He earned his undergraduate degree from Westminster College in Fulton, Mo., and his medical degree from the KU School of Medicine in 1948. He was in the V-12 Navy College Training Program.

After his medical internship and a short time in general practice, he served with a Marine surgical unit in the Korean War. When he returned from military service, he entered the residency program in surgery at KU Medical Center. He eventually joined the faculty as a professor and remained for 20 years. He then accepted a position as professor of surgery and medical staff president at the University of California-Irvine. 

Don and Gerry returned to Lawrence after his retirement and were active members of Trinity Episcopal Church. The family dedicated a stained-glass window and plaque to Don there, honoring his life and achievements.

Don and Gerry Miller

Daughter Laurie Miller Van Auken, of Prairie Village, Kan., said her father was dedicated to education, research and excellence in surgery.

“He would be very pleased to know that he is continuing the legacy by helping a student.” Van Auken said. “He would be especially gratified to know that students who might have more challenges financially are being given the opportunity to pursue that education.”

Andrew Hatfield, of Overland Park, Kan., is a first-year medical student and the inaugural recipient of the Miller Medical Scholarship. His goal is to become an emergency physician. 

“I want to be in the front lines helping save people’s lives on a daily basis,” Hatfield said. “Hopefully, I will excel in my field and be able to return the generosity the Millers have shown me to future students who need a helping hand.”