Kentucky Museum to honor Mary Miller’s contributions to WKU

English Professor Mary Ellen Miller has been with WKU for 54 years and is now in transitional retirement. She is continuing to teach but is using her newly found free time to write a book of poetry. Miller said she intends to continue teaching as long as she can or “as long as they’ll have me.” 

Jack Dobbs

For over 50 years, former english professor Mary Ellen Miller worked to ensure sizeable contributions to the WKU English Department, including organizing an event during Homecoming called the Celebration of Writing for over 20 years.

The Celebration of Writing was created by Miller as a memorial to her late husband, Jim Wayne Miller, who was a renowned writer and lifelong poet.

Miller died June 9 and as a way to honor the legacy of Miller and her husband, the event will be renamed the “Mary Ellen & Jim Wayne Miller Celebration of Writing,” according to the press release from the English Department.

Jim Wayne Miller was a professor of German language and literature at WKU for over 30 years. He also served as a member of the Department of Modern Languages and Intercultural Studies until his death in 1996, according to the press release.

The celebration will consist of a reading of some of professor Mary Ellen Miller’s work as well as various tributes to her and her accomplishments, followed by a book sale and reception. The English department has also created an endowment fund to go along with the event.

Miller’s accolades are as diverse as they are numerous. She won awards for literary merit and in 2011 was awarded the title of WKU’s first Poet Laureate by then-President Gary Ransdell.

The event will include a poetry writing competition for WKU students. Ten finalists from the competition will attend a workshop with assistant professor of African American Studies and poet Cheryl Hopson.  

Those who knew Miller in the English department, such as department head Robert Hale, remember her as a wonderful professor and colleague.

“She was a great teacher,” Hale said. “She was very helpful and worked closely with her students.”

Miller also worked closely with former Provost David Lee on the creation of the Robert Penn Warren Center, which honors the legacy of Robert Penn Warren, a two-time Pulitzer winner and Kentucky native, best known for his 1946 novel “All the King’s Men.”

“She had a very dynamic personality,” Lee said. “She made real contributions to the English department.”

The Mary Ellen and Jim Wayne Celebration will be Oct. 28 in the Kentucky Room of the Kentucky Museum and Library.