Department of Religious Studies

College of Liberal Arts honors Religious Studies professor with Pro Bene Meritis award

Thu, May 19, 2011
College of Liberal Arts honors Religious Studies professor with Pro Bene Meritis award

Dr. Howard Miller, recently retired after almost 40 years of teaching in the Departments of History and Religious Studies, recently received the Pro Bene Meritis award, the highest honor bestowed by the College of Liberal Arts at The University of Texas at Austin. The awards ceremony took place at the San Jacinto Residence Hall Multi-Purpose Room on April 28, 2011. The purpose of the award is “to honor individuals who are committed to the liberal arts, who have made outstanding contributions in professional or philanthropic pursuits, or who have participated in service related to the College of Liberal Arts.”

Over the course of an extraordinary career at The University of Texas at Austin, Dr. Miller built a reputation for teaching excellence that is second to none. He won most of the University’s teaching awards, including the Liberal Arts Council Award, the Harry Ransom Award, the Jean Holloway Award, and the Friar Centennial Teaching Fellowship. In 2009, he received one of the inaugural System-wide awards for teaching excellence, the Regents’ Outstanding Teaching Award.

A masterful storyteller, Dr. Miller’s courses on American religion became legendary. In broad survey courses such as “History of Religion in America” as well as more specialized topics like “The Cinematic Lives of Jesus” and “Unbelief in America,” he brought a captivating lecture style that combined an obvious passion for his subject with a certain sense of showmanship. His ability to weave stories and themes into a compelling narrative resonated with students, allowing them to see the large fabric of American religious history as well as their own personal strands within it.

Howard Miller was born in Graham, Texas, one of six children from a Southern Baptist family. The first one in his family to go to college, he earned a bachelor’s degree in music and a master’s in history from the University of North Texas. After completing a doctorate in American intellectual history from the University of Michigan in 1970, he taught for a year at Hope College in Michigan. In 1971, the History Department at The University of Texas at Austin hired Dr. Miller to teach courses in American religious history – a relatively new field of study at the time, both nationally and at the University. From that time forward, Dr. Miller served as a focal point for the academic study of religion on the Forty Acres, bringing distinguished scholars to campus to talk about Religious Studies, nurturing a community of faculty interested in religion, and developing important connections with members of the wider community. He, more than any other person, is responsible for cultivating the growth of Religious Studies on campus from a small number of courses into a blossoming department with its own faculty, undergraduate curriculum, and graduate program.

The Department of Religious Studies congratuates Dr. Miller on receiving this prestigious honor and wishes him an enjoyable retirement.

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