It could be said that Mary Miller is who the Eagle Forever Award was created for.
Miller, the 24th recipient of the honor, will be recognized on Oct. 12 at 9:30 a.m. in the Faculty Room at the John C. Myers Convocation Center, during the 35th Annual Ashland University Hall of Fame Induction and Student-Athlete of the Year Recognition. As a loyal supporter of Ashland athletics for nearly 50 years, as well as having been an Assistant Professor of Business for 29 years, perhaps no one knows the value of the term "student-athlete" more than Miller.
"In addition to teaching a full academic class load, some of my other responsibilities was a lead role for academic advising. I would coordinate how we would do advising for that year," Miller said. "When admissions had a student and parent visit, and they say they were interested in some aspect of business…I spent a lot of time on that.
"And that spilled into athletics, as well. Coaches would call, or have their assistant call, and they would say, 'Hey, we're going to have a recruit come up, they are interested in business and we'd like you to talk with them.'"
Miller, a 1971 Ashland College graduate who also earned her Master's from Ashland in 1984, enjoyed Eagle athletics from the moment she first stepped on campus.
"Right away, that first home football game my freshman year…I came to the school watching all the very strong athletics that we had," she said. "My parents were teachers, and that's what we did, was followed those sports teams."
She also had a vested interest in seeing one particular Ashland team succeed, when her son, Jason, was a pitcher on the Eagle baseball team in the mid-1990s. Jason Miller now is Ashland's Executive Director of Development.
"Having Jason play a sport, I understood it from the parent's point of view and the student's point of view," Mary said. "That helped me to relate to that."
Miller's advocacy for Ashland student-athletes and the athletic department as a whole led to the new Mary C. Miller Student-Athlete Enrichment Center, adjacent to the new Rinehart Room, on the second floor of AU's Physical Education Center.
"To me, it just really reinforces and exemplifies our family's feelings toward Ashland University, and how athletics and academics work so well together," said Miller. "Student-athlete really is the correct term, that we expect our athletes to be exceptional, and we expect them to be exceptional students, as well.
"Our family believes this is an integral part of the education at Ashland University."
As for what Miller will feel come the morning of Oct. 12, she said, "I've been to a lot of these Hall of Fame brunches. I never thought that I would ever receive this. It is so wonderful, and I just always thought that academics and athletics, they are just so strong at Ashland.
"I'm just so excited to be a part of it, and part of that experience."