Rose Miller ('81): Combined her military experience with a Clarion University education to soar to new heights.
Rose Miller came to Clarion University in 1977, a self-described shy, timid, bookworm type. Four years later, she held a bachelor's degree in political science and was a second lieutenant in the U.S. Army, about to depart to lead troops in Berlin, Germany.
In her sophomore year, Miller, a political science major who planned to become a lawyer, received a full ROTC scholarship, which required a four-year commitment to the Army.
"I had the opportunity to be involved in student politics and to be active in the community," Miller said. "Clarion being a relatively small school, I felt like I was a leader in the college community, and that gave me the confidence to believe I could be a leader in the Army."
It was the intensity of getting involved with people who cared about causes that lured her to be involved. Students' concerns at the time were voter registration, women's rights, abortion rights, the draft and the right to a public higher education in Pennsylvania.
Miller came from an economically poor background and went to Clarion "on a shoestring." Her military career not only helped her pay for her bachelor's degree, but also two subsequent master's degrees, as well as providing the chance to learn about different cultures and people and to live in different countries.
"It was a great adventure, and the adventure just continued for 27 years," Miller said. Her final military assignment was a year-long deployment to Afghanistan, as part of Operation Enduring Freedom.
"It was one of the biggest challenges, and it was unexpected. I was gearing for retirement when I got the order to go," Miller said. "It was a culminating kind of experience. I led a brigade of 600 people, and I had to call on everything, all the experience to do that."
"It was a tough experience. Like any good woman, I'd put on my makeup, comb my hair, smile and say I'm doing fine," she said. "At first it was hard, then I was just inspired by all the great young people. I'm very proud of what my unit did over there."
She has received numerous awards from the military for her service as a top-ranked, Army colonel. Before leaving active duty, Miller served as senior advisor to a four-star Army commander for force protection, physical security, law enforcement, personal security and operations security for a command of more than 5,000 people located worldwide.
She retired as a colonel in 2008. Although she's out of the Army, the Army remains as part of her personality and character. Lessons she learned remain, helping her navigate life's challenges.
Six months after she retired, Miller was diagnosed with breast cancer. She fell back on the inner strength she built during her military career, and she leaned on two groups of lifelong friends – from the military and from Clarion University.
Miller now enjoys civilian life in Chantilly, Va., where she provides expertise in homeland security and domestic preparedness.
"Clarion is where it all started," Miller said.