It is safe to say that no two jobs at Collegiate are the same. Some, like the head of school, are unique in their titles alone. Others, like the English teacher who specializes in Shakespeare, have a uniqueness that is shaped by their holders. Julie Miller’s job is no exception. Although it is labeled as “receptionist,” there are no words to describe what it is that Julie Miller does behind that desk. Whether it is receiving tardy students with excuses like, “Please excuse my child, we lost her brother, who was hiding in the cupboard,” sending out the Daily Bulletin, or making sure the school runs smoothly, Mrs. Miller’s daily tasks are always different and always exciting. In fact, one of her favorite parts of this job is “that it’s always different, and that you can do a lot of things during the day and get to know a lot of students and teachers and get to participate in their lives.” Students like Mary Katherine Hilb (’16), who has worked with Mrs. Miller for three years on the Pageant lights crew, appreciate Mrs. Miller for this love of involvement, saying, “I love Mrs. Miller because she makes me feel like I am extremely special, as if I’m the only person who exists in her chaotic life.” It takes a special person to come into work with no way of expecting what craziness the day might hold, and an even more special person to say that this is the best part of her job.
Mrs. Miller never strayed far from the Richmond community; she was born in Hanover, Virginia and received her Bachelor of Fine Arts in technical design theater with a focus on props at Virginia Commonwealth University. Before it became her college major, Mrs. Miller’s long-standing love for theater originated in high school when she followed in her sister’s shadow to audition for a role in Little Shop of Horrors. By a stroke of fate, Mrs. Miller broke her ankle one day in soccer practice, forcing her to trade in her role of a Doo Wop girl for the offstage voice of a plant and a hand in the play’s lights crew. It was in this very play that Mrs. Miller first discovered a love for theater that would carry on throughout her college years and her arrival at Collegiate. This love drove Mrs. Miller to change her major at VCU from philosophy to technical design theater, in addition to leading her to later run the theater at Collegiate, teach a class in technical theater, and head the lights crew each year at Pageant. However, before arriving at Collegiate, Mrs. Miller held a variety of jobs as a waitress, gas station employee, props person at the Theater of Virginia, employee at the physical plant at Randolph Macon, and repairing library books. Now that she has arrived at her current job in the Upper School, Mrs. Miller finds herself able to play a less involved role in the theater world at Collegiate as a leader of Pageant lights, but a highly involved role in the lives of students and faculty.
One of the many qualities of Mrs. Miller that is impossible to fully appreciate is her love for Collegiate. Her Cougar Pride goes beyond dressing in green and gold at pep rally in her efforts to be a part of Collegiate life whenever possible. As someone who has sponsored Brunch, facilitated the Special Olympics and graduation, led an advisory, and supervised school trips, Mrs. Miller seizes every opportunity to involve herself in Collegiate, simply because she loves the school. In fact, when asked what job she would chose to have if she could have any in the world, Mrs. Miller considered the question for only a moment before responding, “this one” with complete confidence. When faced with the similar question of what job she would take at Collegiate if hers was unavailable, Mrs. Miller faithfully replied, “Can I just have my job?” Her job is neither glamorous nor easy, and many would agree that she is grossly under-appreciated for all that she does. So, her unyielding love for her work indicates both what kind of person she is and how much she loves this school, as evidenced by her wish “that all kids could find their Collegiate.”
When asked what is it about Collegiate that has bound Mrs. Miller so loyally to her beloved job, her response once again reflected her continuing loyalty. Mrs. Miller described the environment she sees from behind her desk as a place where “each day, we are making the world what we want it to be. We are at the age where we know what we want the world to be and we are moving that way. We are all in it together, we are all working on that goal.” She presents this school as a place where there is “not a focus on the end, but a focus on the process,” which appeals to someone like her who finds value in the journey rather than the destination. Mrs. Miller feels attached to the process unfolding at Collegiate and the ability to be a part of so many individual processes from her seat in the front hall, which is why she is perfectly content to stay right where she is.
Cover photo credit: Helen Roddey