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If you wanted to pin me down and get an answer for what non-family member has had the biggest impact on my life, I wouldn't have to think too hard before I came up with the name Ron Miller. He passed away recently and was my professor, advisor, boss, mentor, and--perhaps most importantly--a dear friend.

Ron was chairperson of the Religion Dept at Lake Forest College...among other things. He lived the kind of life we all should. Thoughtful, spiritually active, worried about others, wise but diplomatic about his wisdom. Most of his life was dedicated to his students. The rest was dedication to the idea that religion should heal us rather than separate us. He specialized in Jewish-Christian dialogue, Islam and the West, mysticism, meditation, gaining insights about peace through spiritual teachings. He founded community programs, wrote books, gave lectures around the world. In the end, he even died like one of his spiritual heroes, Thomas Merton, in being on the road.

Yesterday, we learned that in honor of what would have been his 75th birthday next year, a Gedenkschrift is being put together for him. I think I need to write something though I'm still working out what. Something appropriately academic-yet-personal. That was Ron in a nutshell.

I met him before I'd even fully become a student at LFC. He ran a trip to Chicago while I was visiting and his presence was incalculable. It's rare that a person has that much to offer the world. Intellect, yes. But a gentle way of leading everyone he met towards greater mindfulness with humor and self-deprecation had everyone drawn to him. He was the stereotypical brilliant professor with the messy office. And no computer skills. We'd make fun but always in a loving way...he could talk to you all day about Christology or veneration of the Buddha or Islamic history or quote lines from rabbis.

It's weird to not have him here. Not that I was speaking with him frequently, but I'd attend a talk now and again. Or go to a reunion. In fact, just before he passed, a college friend had been planning to come into town for a special celebration in his honor. It sometimes makes me sad he never got to meet my kids or Kelly. And sometimes I have those deep questions in the back of my head that I'd love to hear what Ron had to say about it. Big Questions about being human were his bread and butter.

But then I stop and realize the greatest gift he gave all his students and appreciation for our own ability to change the world for the better. To be our own best role model. The greatest remembrance for Ron isn't to keep his vision alive in his name. It's to be thankful for all he did for us then pass it on to others. No acknowledgement about him needed. But well-deserved.

I write about him not because he would have wanted it. But because it's what he would have done for others.

As he ended all his correspondence: Peace.

Om, shanti, peace, shalom. May all my friends, enemies, and beings be happy, peaceful, and free.


  1. What a great - and true - tribute to dear Ron!


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