Rick Miller '85

Rick Miller headshotFrom Boston to Syracuse, former Syracuse University football player commits to educational opportunity for all

Rick Miller ’85 understands the value of a high-quality education.

Thanks to a football scholarship, he was able to attend Syracuse University in 1981—an opportunity of a lifetime—and earn a bachelor’s degree. In an effort to pay that good fortune forward, Miller has dedicated his time, funds and energy over the past 16 years to providing educational opportunities to students throughout the Boston area through his support of Nativity Preparatory School.

“I will always be grateful to people like Coach Dick MacPherson, Coach Jim Tressel and Coach Norm Gerber who recruited, coached and helped me succeed at Syracuse University and beyond,” says Miller. “In many ways, this is a small way to pay them back and pay it forward for others.”

Miller, Group Managing Director at TCW Direct Lending, began his journey with Nativity Prep, a tuition-free Jesuit middle school, in 2004 at the invitation of a neighbor. The spirit of the students, faculty and staff immediately impressed him, and soon after he began his long-term commitment to the cause. Now, Miller is the Chair of the school’s Board of Trustees.

Nativity Preparatory School provides fully funded, academically challenging and highly structured education to boys in grades 4 through 8 from low-income families residing in Boston. Over the course of nearly 30 years, the school has graduated more than 350 children who have gone on to study at the area’s best high schools and universities. With help from the head start they earned at Nativity Prep, graduates now work in a vast range of career fields and contribute to their neighborhoods through civil and community service.

“It is an impressive school that has had a tremendous impact on so many lives over the years – some alumni even say that Nativity Prep ‘saved’ their lives,” says Miller.

The educational program at Nativity Prep is intense. Many students begin the school day at 7:30 a.m., participate in a full day of classes, extracurricular activities, athletics and tutoring, and end the day at 7:30 p.m. There is also an extended school year, which can include summer academic work, preparation for high school and summer camp opportunities throughout Boston. Additionally, when Nativity Prep students graduate from high school, the school stays in touch to help them through the college admissions process.

This deep commitment to all aspects of a child’s academic, character and spiritual development inspired Miller to become a long-term supporter of Nativity Prep. Donations to the school are critical and help ensure full scholarships for each student who attends.

“In the spirit of the Jesuits, Nativity Prep works to form ‘men for others,’ and this concept provides a worthy goal for us all,” says Miller. “However, the most compelling reason I have for supporting Nativity Prep is that the program works. Nearly all of its alumni will be first generation college graduates and are equipped to become effective leaders in our communities.”

Miller’s dedicated service to Nativity Prep has shown that he is a ‘man for others’ in his own right. Beyond his financial commitments, he regularly attends Nativity Prep events and spreads the word about school throughout the Boston area.

One of Miller’s favorite events to attend at Nativity Prep is graduation at the end of each academic year. He says it is a privilege to be a part of the vibrant and passionate school community and participate in such an important moment in these young men’s lives.

“To see them share the pride, satisfaction and gratitude of completing this part of their education with their families can be quite moving,” says Miller.

Nativity Prep has openly demonstrated its appreciation for Miller’s close relationship with the school community. In 2017, he and his wife, LeeAnn, were honored with the Raymond J. Callahan, SJ Service Award granted annually by the school. This award is given to a member of the Nativity Prep community who exemplifies the commitment to service, social justice and sacrifice demonstrated by Father Raymond Callahan, a former president at Nativity.

Miller says the recognition was humbling, but the successes and triumphs of Nativity students are the true reward for his work.

This passion for improving educational opportunities for underprivileged young people does not stop at Nativity Prep, though. Miller is also the benefactor of two scholarship programs, one at Syracuse University, and the other at University of Rochester, where he earned his Master of Business Administration. These scholarships are awarded to graduates of Nativity or students from low-income households from the Boston area who attend these universities.

It’s easy to commit “time and treasure,” Miller says, when the organization you support excites, motivates, impresses and moves you. Combining these attributes with a cause that is important to you—in his case, education—is essential.

The impact of Miller’s work in education recently came full circle for him. More than 30 years after he graduated from Syracuse University, Miller’s niece graduated in May 2020 and joined the ranks of Orange alumni alongside him. He says he and his family are proud of her accomplishments at the University and excited for her future.

Years before graduation, however, Miller accompanied his niece on a tour of campus, exploring both familiar buildings and new additions after many years away. On that tour—whether by coincidence or fate—they ran into a group of students from Nativity Prep on a tour of colleges in upstate New York.

For Miller, it was an exciting reminder of the impact of Nativity Prep on these students’ lives. For the students, though, it was a part of a greater life-changing experience, which Miller helped grant them. Undoubtedly, one day they will ‘pay it forward,’ too.