Samuel Clifford Miller, Director Emeritus of the Newark Museum
, passed away peacefully in New Jersey on Thursday, November 07, 2013. His life will be celebrated at a Memorial Mass at the St. Patricks Pro-Cathedral in Newark, NJ on Friday, November 15, at 10:30 a.m.
Sam was born in May, 1930 in Dillard, Oregon, the son of Blanche Ethyl Barron Miller and Loren Lee Miller, into a prominent ranching family. Sams love of the fine arts, especially music, was first fostered by his mother, who had been a schoolteacher. He left the life of a cattleman behind, graduating from Stanford University and pursuing graduate studies at the Institute of Fine Arts of New York University. A veteran of service in the United States Army, he was posted in Japan, where he first became interested in the visual arts through the study of Japanese culture. His life as a collector began then as well, his interests spanning folk art to contemporary art.
His first museum appointment was as assistant to the director of the Albright-Knox Art Gallery in Buffalo. He was named the fifth Director of the Newark Museum in 1968, serving twenty-five years until his retirement in 1993, and was among the longest-tenured members of the Association of Art Museum Directors.
Sam played a crucial role in expanding the Museums activities and winning increased public support for the institution throughout its many communities. With the Trustees he spearheaded the Newark Museums nationally and internationally-acclaimed Master Plan renovation and expansion, designed by Michael Graves, which opened in 1989. His acumen was evident throughout the newly-created galleries.
He was justifiably proud of important acquisitions and gifts reflecting the breadth of Newarks collections in American, Asian, African, Native American and Classical art and Decorative Arts. He began a major outdoor sculpture collection and undertook to enhance the Museums strong holdings of 18th- and 19th-century painting, geometric abstraction, ceramics, folk art, work by African-American artists, and especially contemporary art, which remained his first love. He guided the talents of outstanding curators in all of these areas, and championed many emerging artists.
Among accomplishments during his tenure, the Museum created permanent galleries devoted to African art; restored the 1885 Ballantine House, subsequently named to the National Register of Historic Sites; and relocated the historic Tibetan Buddhist altar, which was then consecrated by the Dalai Lama, surrounded by a suite of new galleries showcasing this seminal collection. In 1974, the Newark Museum was among the first to repatriate a work of art, a late-Roman mosaic that was found to have been stolen from the excavation of Apamea in Syria.
Importantly, Sams stalwart belief in and efforts toward the resurgence of Newark were key to the Citys recovery and the subsequent public and private investments that have been made. Following the Citys 1960s nadir, Sam was among the first civic leaders to stand up to the City and call for a deeper investments in its future. Always an unabashed advocate of all things Newark, he was a founding member of the Newark Preservation and Landmarks Committee, the Newark Arts Council, the Downtown Parks Committee and the Washington Commons Development Corporation, and for almost three decades a proud resident of Newarks Forest Hill neighborhood.
Following his retirement from the Museum, Sam embraced the mission of the World Monuments Fund and served as a trustee of that organization. Sam and his wife, Rosetta, led several trips to the Angkor Wat temple complex in Cambodia in the 1990s, encouraging their fellow travelers to Adopt a Garuda in support of that World Heritage Site.
Sam Miller was the recipient of honorary doctorates from Rutgers University and Seton Hall University, and the New Jersey Institute of Technology Trustees Award. Among many accolades, he received the Brotherhood Award from the National Conference of Christians and Jews and the Katherine Coffey Award from the Mid-Atlantic Association of Museums. The Prudential Foundation gave him its Leadership Award in 1992, in recognition of 25 years of vision, creativity and initiative.
Active in cultural initiatives in New Jersey and New York, he served as a trustee of the Drumthwacket Foundation, as a member of the Art Committee of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey and the Advisory Committee on the New Jersey State House Arts and Furnishings.
He was predeceased by wives Nell Schoellkopf Ely Miller and Rosetta Averill Blanton Miller, by his sister Patricia Gilliam Miller, brother Loren Lee Miller, Jr. and sister-in-law Mary Elizabeth Miller, and by nephews Gregory Neil Miller and Michael John Miller. He is survived by nieces and nephews Marianne Miller Martin of Pineville, Oregon, Patricia Miller Plemon and Janie Miller Montgomery, both of Red Bluff, California, Jeffrey Lee Miller of Davis, California, and Mark William Miller of Vancouver, and their spouses, and by his caregiver, Maria Denis of Newark, her husband João Pineiro, and her family.
A master story-teller of great wit, a generous host, steadfast friend, enthusiastic mentor, and lover of opera and travel, Sam Miller will be missed by a large and adoring public as well as by those closest to him.
Following the Memorial Mass, a reception with remembrances will be held at the Newark Museum.
Donations may be made in Sams name to the Newark Museum, 49 Washington Street, Newark, NJ 07102 or to the World Monuments Fund, 350 Fifth Avenue, Suite 2412, New York, NY 10118.