Indiana State University Newsroom

Service celebrating J.D. Miller's life scheduled for Jan. 12

January 6, 2010

TERRE HAUTE, Ind. - Friend. Activist. Fighter. Educator. These are just a few of the many words to describe former Indiana State University student and alumnus J.D. Miller.

Miller, an elementary and special education major from Reelsville, died Dec. 26, at the age of 21 after battling non-Hodgkin's lymphoma.

Indiana State faculty, staff and students will celebrate Miller's life during a campus memorial service, scheduled for 7 p.m. Jan. 12 in Hulman Memorial Student Union, Dede I.

Miller touched numerous lives, from his involvement in campus activities and beyond. He was active in the ISU chapter of the Indiana Student Education Association, Lutheran Campus Ministries, ISU's Up Til Dawn Committee and worked as a resident assistant in Rhoads Hall. In his hometown of Greencastle, he worked as a substitute teacher.

Heather Little's daughter, Fayth Adams, had Miller as a teacher for a brief time at Tzouanakis Elementary School.

"He was the most caring and dedicated teacher I think I have ever met," Little remembered. "He was only there for a few weeks while the actual teacher was gone on medical leave, up until the point where he starting becoming ill and had to leave."

She remembers Miller doing many things for the class, including trying to start a tutoring program before falling ill.

"He was such an inspiration to all of the children's lives he was able to briefly touch! I know in his own little corner of heaven, Mr. Miller is there teaching the little children and they are being well taken care of!!"

Miller taught even seasoned educators an important lesson - how to live life to the fullest.

"J.D. gave all that dwelled within to his family, his friends, the children in Indiana's schools, the students of Indiana Student Education Association and the members of the Indiana State Teacher's Association and National Education Association," said Rick Wright, a colleague of Miller's on the ISTA Board of Directors.

"J.D. was admired by many and equaled by none in his commitment, faith, and courage," Wright added. "He affected positively the lives of many and was perhaps the greatest teacher that I had the pleasure to know. I never saw him in a classroom setting, yet I know of his teaching prowess because he taught me though his living. This teacher of many years was taught how to live a more meaningful life by the living and dying of one so young."

Judy Sheese, director of Educational Services in the Bayh College of Education, advised the aspiring teacher from the time he enrolled at Indiana State. Miller was not like the rest of her students.

"Many times I've had to motivate students to ‘get in gear' to complete their coursework or get their grades higher. But J.D. was always in high gear. It's almost as though he knew he didn't have much time," she said.

Sheese said she also learned from Miller.

"I've learned that patience isn't always a virtue. Sometimes accepting that people know what is best for them is what is best. I've learned that students are almost always wiser in ways we never give them credit for," she said. "And I've learned that fairness isn't part of some people's vocabulary. J.D. never asked, "Why me?" He wasn't angry at his fate. Instead he inspired people. He showed courage that we don't usually associate with such a young heart."

Prior to his death, Miller was current state president of the Indiana Student Education Association, a student program representative on the National Education Association board of directors and was active in the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society, American Cancer Society and an avid supporter of Relay for Life and St. Jude Children's Hospital. Miller was the recipient of a Distinguished Hoosier award from the Governor's Office, a 2009 Danny Thomas Leadership Scholarship from St. Jude Children's Hospital and was honored by the ISU Alumni Association.

Memorial contributions may be made to the J.D. Miller Leadership in Education Scholarship fund through the ISU Foundation; The American Cancer Society; St. Jude Children's Hospital or the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society.


Contact and writer: Paula Meyer, ISU Communications & Marketing, 812-237-3783 or