Dr. Rod MillerHendrix College Art Professor Rod Miller’s life is a bit of an Odyssey in itself.
Born in Philadelphia, Pa., he lived in east Texas, as well as New Mexico and Hawaii. When he graduated from high school in Henderson, Texas, his family moved to Haiti, where his father, a minister, led a church for missionaries. Miller attended Kilgore Junior College, University of Texas at Tyler, and Stephen F. Austin University, where he earned his bachelor’s and master’s in art.
After college, he moved to Turkey, where he taught English at a private secondary school. It was there he met his future wife, Amanda. Miller returned to the United States, intending to be a public school English teacher. He entered graduate school in eastern Washington, where his family had then relocated, but soon felt called to pursue art history. He and his wife moved to Iowa, where Miller earned a master’s in art history. The Millers then moved to Kentucky, where he earned his doctorate in a new art history doctoral program.
When he joined the Hendrix faculty in 1998, Miller is the College’s first art historian.
His position was initially funded by a grant from a private foundation, which also supported the construction of the College’s new three-building Art Center, which opened in 2005.
“It really was a new era,” Miller said.
Miller joined the Art Department the same year as Erik Maakestad. Two years after their arrival, Don Marr retired after 40 years at Hendrix. Marr was replaced by Matthew Lopas. Two years later, the department added photographer Maxine Payne.
“We’ve grown along with the College,” said Miller.
Teaching 900 students is not the same as teaching 1,500 students; and having 100-plus faculty colleagues is not the same as 60, Miller said.
“With more boots on the ground comes more opportunity for students, more classes, more trips abroad, and more weird things,” he said.
Miller himself has been the beneficiary of Your Hendrix Odyssey: Engaging in Active Learning, leading art history tours for students to Turkey and Italy.
In the fall semester, Miller will accompany students in the Hendrix-in-London Program, which is supported by the Hendrix-Murphy Foundation Programs in Literature and Language. During his semester abroad, he will teach a course on C.S. Lewis. Prior to the Hendrix-in-London Program, Miller will be “drowning in Lewis” as he attends the C.S. Lewis Society’s triennial conference in July.
Travel opportunities are critical learning experiences for students, Miller said.
“You see so much that enriches, expands, and broadens you,” he said. “Even the most superficial, insular tour group will change you.”
“It’s been a tremendous opportunity for me, and I’m incredibly grateful for that,” he said.
Though Miller admits he is “envious” of the opportunities that undergraduate students have at Hendrix, he is “constantly amazed at the talent of Hendrix students.”
“They’re just amazing,” he said. “Both their intellects and what they take on in class and through Odyssey … They hustle.”
Engaged learning opportunities such as travel that are offered through Your Hendrix Odyssey are greatest strength of Hendrix, he thinks.
“Odyssey gently pushes students outside of the class,” he said. “For students who are willing, Hendrix will help them go as far as they want to go … The sky’s the limit.”