As a master’s student, teaching assistant and mother of seven children, Kathleen Miller was a busy woman.
Miller, 62, died in a car accident on Nov. 12. She was pursuing a Master of Arts in history while teaching at State Fair Community College in Sedalia, Missouri, and taught GED classes.
Jon Taylor, UCM history professor, said he knew Miller for eight years as a student and as his teaching assistant. Taylor said Miller had thought about becoming a history professor herself.
“Kathy loved to learn. She loved to teach and she loved to teach what she learned,” Taylor said.
Taylor said he really got to know Miller when she took his classes as a graduate student.
“She (was) an excellent student: always conscientious, always contributing, always went the extra mile,” Taylor said.
Taylor said at the time, Miller also taught GED classes in Clinton, Missouri. He said because of her experience, he knew she would be a great teaching assistant.
“She was always an excellent mentor to the students, trying to help them in any way that she could,” Taylor said. “I knew that she was entirely capable at doing whatever it was she was tasked at doing, and so I never had to check up…we worked together on that particular class and I entrusted her so much that I let her teach the class on a couple occasions when I was gone because I knew that she could do that…I know what I heard from others that she always did an excellent job.”
He said Miller loved to learn, research and said she was an excellent writer.
“She always knew that there was more,” Taylor said. “That’s something that’s very difficult to teach: the want to find out more. That curiosity was very unique.”
Carol Heming, UCM history professor emerita, said she had Miller in her classes as a student before she retired in 2014. She said Miller always had a strong presence in the classroom.
“I noticed that she was a non-traditional student,” Heming said. “She was a bit of a mother hand to some of the other students. They looked up to her.”
Heming said when Miller did presentations in class, she could tell Miller had former teaching experience. She later found out that Miller had teaching experience in her local church in Clinton.
“She had a very professional manner of presenting and of bringing everyone into the discussion,” she said. “She just was a dream student and any professor would have been thrilled to have her in class, and I was.”
Heming said Miller had recently finished her thesis for her master’s degree. All there was left to do was fix up some typos and minor revisions.
“That was like a week before she passed away,” she said. “Such a shock. We’re working to have her awarded with her degree posthumously…she has seven daughters and they were all very interested in seeing that happen because they know how dedicated she was to having it finished.”
Heming said she and Miller had not only a student-professor relationship, but a friendship as well.
“I saw her as a very good friend. Her age and my age weren’t that different,” she said. “I just was always impressed with how thoroughly she did anything. She was a perfectionist and we have a lot of interest in common.”
Heming said she and Miller were going to publish articles together after Miller got her degree based on the research she did for her thesis. Heming said she was going to help Miller get the articles published in some journals.
“I’m pretty sure that would have happened, but it won’t now, unfortunately,” Heming said. “I can’t even begin to imagine how many people are going to miss her.”
Taylor said even during her busy life with seven children, she always found a way to get her assignments in on time.
“I know her family was very, very proud of her,” Taylor said. “She was probably one of the top students that we’ve had to go through our program and she will be greatly missed.”