KANSAS CITY.- James L. Miller, who helped champion the esteemed Mary Atkins Lecture Series at The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, has retired as Atkins Museum Trustee, effective June 30. As Atkins Trustee since 1984, Miller was one of two persons charged with administering the estate left by Mary Atkins for the benefit of the Museum.
Grant Burcham, President and CEO of Missouri Bank, has been named as Millers successor. He joins Mary Lou Brous, the current Atkins Trustee who succeeded David Stickelber last year.
Miller began his involvement with the Museum as have many in childhood. I used to go up there on Saturdays and look at the collections. I liked them all, Miller remembers. He also took advantage of Museum education programs.
After being graduated from Rockhurst College, he received his MBA from the University of Texas-Austin and went to work for Commerce Bank, first downtown and later at the Plaza location where he specialized in the trust and bond departments. His grandfather, Jo Zach Miller II, was the founder of the Tenth District Federal Reserve Bank, which opened its doors in Kansas City in 1914.
Millers father, Jo Zach Miller III (who served with Harry Truman in Battery D), worked for Commerce Bank. The family members were early supporters of the Nelson-Atkins and participants in Friends of Art, a group with the early mission of providing funds to purchase modern art for the Museum.
Miller met his wife, Patricia, as a childhood neighbor in the area just east of the Museum. As a couple they were active in the Museums life. Miller served as chairman of Friends of Art, and Mrs. Miller remembers that during his tenure, membership quadrupled.
Among Millers efforts to increase public attendance was a 1960s happening, an event that included audience participation and improvisation. Bleachers were set up in Kirkwood Hall and Mrs. Miller remembers that part of the improvisation, much to the consternation of the staff, left paint on the floor, which her husband helped clean up on his hands and knees.
As Atkins Trustee since 1984, Miller fulfilled one of two positions created in 1911 to uphold the interests of the estate of Mary McAfee Atkins, a Kentucky schoolteacher who married a Kansas City businessman. After developing a deep appreciation for the arts in her later years, Atkins bequeathed her estate for the establishment of an art museum. The Nelson-Atkins resulted from the combined generosity of Mary Atkins and William Rockhill Nelson. The Trustees have used the remaining revenues from the estate to augment Museum programming, including the Mary Atkins Lecture Series that brings noted speakers to Kansas City each fall.
When one of the trustees retires from the board or dies, the remaining trustee chooses the replacement. Herbert V. Jones, Jr. chose Miller upon the retirement of David Childs. When Childs left his position, Miller chose Nicholas Pickard. After Pickard died, Miller chose David Stickelber. When he retired, Miller picked Mary Lou Brous. Now that Miller has retired, Brous has asked Grant Burcham, president and CEO of Missouri Bank, to join her as Atkins Trustee.
Burcham was graduated from Southern Missouri University in 1984, the year he joined Missouri Bank as customer service representative, teller and bookkeeper. He became president and CEO of Missouri Bank in 1994.
Burchams civic involvement includes being a present board member of the Greater Kansas City Community Foundation, St. Lukes Hospital, St. Lukes Hospital Foundation and co-chair of the finance committee for the Kansas City Art Institute. Burcham collects contemporary art with an emphasis on local artists.