A gift from the late Martha Miller of Holland will underwrite construction of the Martha Miller Center, a multipurpose building that will, among other roles, provide a home for the nationally accredited dance program at Hope College.
Word of the $3 million gift, announced by Miller's
family on Wednesday afternoon, provided a farewell present
for Hope College President Dr. John H. Jacobson, who was in
his final hours at the college before retiring.
"Martha Miller was a gracious and kind friend to
the college, and my wife Jeanne and I valued the opportunity
to get to know her during our time at Hope," Jacobson said.
"The college is delighted to name the building in her
Martha Miller with her family had been making
arrangements for the gift in the weeks before her death on
Sunday, May 16, at age 96. Her three children valued the
opportunity to follow through on her wishes.
"We're all very happy that we can do this," said
her daughter, Connie Johnston of Bloomfield Hills.
The gift is a way of recognizing the college's
role in the Miller family and in the community, said her son
Philip Miller of Holland. Martha Miller attended Hope, as
did all three of her children and five of her grandchildren.
"So over the years Hope College has played a major
role in the shaping of values and the development of
generations of the family in ways that we appreciate," he
said. "Just as the college has also shaped the Holland
community and helped make Holland the special place that it
The timing of the announcement, noted eldest son
Jack Miller of Grand Haven, had also been important to his
"She appreciated the efforts that John Jacobson
made on behalf of the project," he said. "One of her wishes
was that this be concluded and announced while Dr. Jacobson
was president of Hope College."
As the college suggested naming the center in
recognition of the gift and the family's long-time
relationship with Hope, the children in turn asked that the
building be named for their mother specifically.
Among other uses still being determined, the
building will house general classrooms, offices for the
dance faculty and dance studios. Preliminary estimates
place the cost at $5-6 million for a structure of
approximately 40,000 square feet.
Hope is examining sites on the central campus for
the building. It will not, as had been considered earlier,
be built on college-owned property at College Avenue and
Ninth Street that is currently leased to the city for
The department of dance has been based in the
college's Dow Health and Physical Education Center since the
building opened in 1978. Dance became a major in 1984 and
has been accredited by the National Association of Schools
of Dance since 1985.
Martha Miller, who was born in Danforth, Ill.,
moved to Holland with her family at age four and grew up in
the city. She attended Hope as well as the University of
She lived in Zeeland for most of her life, and was
active in organizations including the Zeeland Girl Scouts
and the Zeeland Literary Club, as well as Second Reformed
Church in Zeeland. Her interest in the Zeeland Library
prompted a family donation that led to the construction of
the Howard Miller Library and Community Center in 1995.
She was an officer of the Howard Miller Clock
Company. The company was founded by her husband, Howard
Miller, who preceded her in death in 1995.