SPRINGFIELD, Ohio — The Rev. L. David Miller, former dean of Wittenberg University’s School of Music, professor of music and famed choir director, died Wednesday, May 21, at the age of 84.
During Miller’s tenure at Wittenberg from 1955 to1978, the School of Music became one of the top programs among small colleges in the nation. At its height, the school had more than 175 majors, and the music faculty represented some of the finest musicians and scholars in any school of Wittenberg’s size in the United States.
Under Miller’s leadership, the academic program also expanded to embrace not only liturgical and western traditions but the diverse music of the world, including the African American tradition and the music of East Asia, India and other areas of the Orient.
A Lutheran pastor, who served as minister of music at St. John’s Lutheran Church in Dayton during his time at Wittenberg, Miller also spearheaded the effort to design and build Krieg Hall, which has been Wittenberg’s music home since its completion in 1967. In addition, Miller successfully helped raise the funds necessary to finance and equip the building, placing not only the music program, but also the facilities at Wittenberg in the forefront of similar institutions.
The Wittenberg Choir under Miller’s direction also received international acclaim. Wittenberg choir members logged 67,500 miles, giving concerts in 29 countries and five continents under Miller’s direction from 1961 to 1972. The choir was heard weekly on national radio broadcasts as well.
Miller’s late wife, Ann, was also a key member of the Wittenberg community. The Ann Miller Gallery, located in Koch Hall, is named for her, and she was the Wittenberg’s Guild’s executive director from its inception in 1959 until failing health forced her to resign 17 years later.
Miller never remarried after his wife’s death in 1977, and he admitted that her death was the main reason he decided to leave Wittenberg. "We were a team," he once said. "I would not have achieved what I did at Wittenberg without my wife."
Following his departure, Miller, who once said that "the best years of his professional life were spent at Wittenberg," became professor of sacred music at Lutheran Theological Southern Seminary in Columbia, S.C., where he remained until he retirement.
In 1999, Wittenberg honored Miller’s significant contributions by awarding him the prestigious Canticum Novum Award. The award, which means "New Song" in Latin, is given to musicians who have advanced music through composition, performance or leadership. The award was established while Miller served as dean of the School of Music, but it had not been awarded since 1981.
During Commencement exercises in 2001, the university again recognized Miller in absentia with its Medal of Honor, given to those individuals who demonstrate sensitivity to the university's needs and aspirations, loyal service and a dedication to Wittenberg as a liberal arts institution.
“As a Lutheran pastor, church musician, composer, educator and visionary, L. David touched the lives of countless people across this country,” said Trudy Faber, professor of music and department chair. “He was a ‘people-person’ who could charm young and old, especially the old. As one friend once said, ‘Knowing him was an occasion of grace.’”
“Throughout his 23-year tenure at Wittenberg, L. David Miller worked tirelessly to enhance the reputation of the university and the discipline of music among our constituents in the Lutheran church and in the general population,” added Charles A. Dominick, vice president of advancement. “He was a friend to Wittenberg, and he will be dearly missed.”
Miller, who received his A.B. from Lenoir-Rhyne College, his M.Div. from Lutheran Southern Seminary and his M.S.M. from Union Theological Seminary, is survived by two daughters, Anita and Andrea. A memorial service for Miller is being planned at Wittenberg University, Sunday, June 15, during Alumni Weekend
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