Memorial service set for Dolores Miller, who played leading role in establishing FMU

February 9, 2019

FLORENCE, S.C. – A memorial service will be held in March for Dolores Miller, one of the key players who made Francis Marion University what it is today and who led several divic organizations in the Pee Dee.

Miller died on Jan. 28. She was 86.

“Working alongside President Doug Smith, Delores played an integral role in establishing Francis Marion College and hiring the founding staff and faculty,” FMU President Fred Carter said . “She would continue to serve faithfully for another quarter of a century as the college expanded its curriculum and grew its enrollment. But well beyond that, she was a vital part of the community, a warm and generous person who made every task and every interaction an absolute delight. FMU will miss her dearly, as will all of Florence.”

Joe Heyward, former vice president and provost for Francis Marion University, said he met Miller in 1973 when she was running the president’s office. Heyward went on to be her supervisor later when she moved to student affairs to supervise the campus newspaper.

“She was meticulous,” Heyward said. “She was spot on as far as detail was concerned. She worked hard to be right. That’s what I liked about her.”

She was dedicated to both the universtiy and the community and worked to make FMU No. 1 in the state, Heyward said.

“We became good friends and stayed good friends until the end,” Heyward said.

Miller was a native of Burlington, New Jersey. She was working with Walter D. Smith at Salisbury State College in Salisbury, Maryland, when he got the call to come to Florence to establish a state college in Florence.

In 1969, Miller relocated to Florence as Smith’s planning officer for what was then Marion State College and would later become his executive assistant.

She was the sole representative on campus until 1970, when others arrived and the school was renamed Francis Marion College, later Francis Marion University.

Miller was elected secretary to the State College Board of Trustees (which was composed of College of Charleston, Lander College and Francis Marion College) and finally to the Board of Trustees for Francis Marion University from 1988 to 1991. Then in 1991, she was named college projects officer and remained there until her retirement in December 1994.

Between Salisbury College (now University) and Francis Marion University, Miller served 43 years in higher education.

During her time in Florence, she became the first female senior warden at St. John’s Episcopal Church (now St. John’s Church). She was a founding board member of the House of Hope, president of the museum board, a founding member of the League of Women Voters Florence Area and served on the League of Women Voters State Board.

She co-authored “Quantum Leap,” a story of three colleges (the history of the growth of College of Charleston, Francis Marion University and Lander College in South Carolina), a member of Women in Philanthropy and, after the Episcopal schism, a charter member of St. Catherine’s Episcopal Church.

Miller remained active in The Episcopal Church in South Carolina. She wrote and delivered the response to the bishop’s address at the Diocesan Convention for five years.

Miller’s love of altar guild work for the Episcopal Church led her to join the Province IV Altar Guild, where she served as president and treasurer and, on the national level, to join NAGA (National Altar Guild Association). She served as the editor of the quarterly publication “The Epistle.”

“Even in recent years, she could be found on early Saturday mornings helping provide breakfast to those less fortunate through the Parking Lot Mission behind HopeHealth on East Palmetto Street,” friend Frances Elmore said of Miller. “Whatever the cause, she brought the same high-caliber standard, yet never expecting credit or acknowledgment for her endeavor.”

A scholarship has been established in her name at Francis Marion University.

The memorial service will be held March 23 at Christ Church in Florence followed by a celebration of her life at the President’s House on the campus of Francis Marion University.

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