The Xi Phi Chapter of the Mortar Board Senior Honor Society at UNK is part of a national honor society which recognizes academic and social merit among college seniors. Mortar Board seeks to promote leadership, scholarship and civic service among the college community, and one of the programs by which it does so, is by hosting the “Last Lecture Series.”
In this program, faculty and campus leaders are approached with an intriguing idea: “If you knew you were able to give just one more lecture, what concepts or message would you present?” The possibilities of the professional’s “last” words can prove to be endless and exciting.
UNK’s Mortar Board kicked off its spring semester activities with a scintillating Last Lecture by Dr. Rick Miller, professor and chair of the Department of Psychology. The title of his “last words” was “The Responsibilities of an Educated Person” and in his presentation, he offered eight principles that he feels anyone–who has been given what he believes to be the privilege of receiving an education–should be obligated to practice.
Responsibility Number One, Dr. Miller said, “Work to live a life centered on concerns.” Dr. Miller encouraged his listeners to regularly take purpose in communicating information on, and working toward, a cause or concern. He illustrated the sentiment that education breeds freedom and that with freedom comes responsibility. “Liberty,” he said, “does not justify apathy or neglect.”
Responsibility Number Two: Develop a commitment to sharing knowledge. Dr.Miller gave details to his audience of students, faculty, staff and guests on how three particular people dramatically influenced his life—all of whom happened to be teachers of his at some point along his journey of being educated.
In Dr. Miller’s Responsibilities of an Educated Person, Number Three, he said that it’s crucial for one to “Understand that learning requires exploring the unknown.” He quickly added, “That means that which is unknown to you, and also, what is unknown to the world.”
Number Four: Cultivate the habit of persistence. Dr. Miller maintained that to receive the most out of the process of learning, it helps to realize that “what you’re involved in—that is, being educated–is bigger than you.”Moreover, he paraphrased, “being educated is also realizing that it’s not about you.”
Responsibility Number Five is “Develop a generous spirit.” Dr.Miller reminded us that “just because you got something doesn’t mean you deserved it,” and furthermore, “just because you deserve something doesn’t mean you’ll get it.” A full recipient of the “gift of education,” Dr. Miller urged his fellow partakers of the gift to share it, by giving to others of “our knowledge and talents.”
His Sixth Responsibility challenged those who are educated to not abuse the privilege, but instead, “Commit yourself to ethical conduct.” In Number Seven, Dr.Miller asked that his audience “Show sincere respect and caring for others.” He elaborated, saying, “Show people the value of an educated heart.”
Finally, Dr.Miller revealed the Eighth Responsibility, which he explained is to “Live honorably. Achieve honor and demonstrate it.” He illustrated his intentions in this principle by offering a three-part litmus test for determining if what an educated person is doing is worthwhile.
“One, tell a child what you’re doing,” Dr. Miller said, proposing that in a child’s innocence and naivety, the child will see the activity purely, for what it really is. Dr. Miller continued, “Two, tell an old person or a dying person what you’re up to. A person under either of these circumstances possesses a perspective that seems clairvoyant to the true value of something.” And, third, he instructed, “Tell yourself.” In other words, he explained, role play your greatest adversary and think about what his assessment might be of your motivations.
From the first words of his Last Lecture, Dr. Miller expressed his love of lifelong learning and the joys he’s experienced in his pursuit and sharing of knowledge. His love of teaching has been recognized with the Pratt-Heins Award for Teaching, and he is among UNK faculty selected for the Profile of Excellence recognition.
Sara Chu Brady, a senior psychology major from Ogallala, said: “Dr.Miller is well-respected in his field and has published countless scholarly articles. However, his style of teaching and mentorship of student research demonstrates his true passion, which is his deep concern for the success of his students.”