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Why I Give: Peter J. Miller

Fri. Apr. 3, 2020

why I give

I’m Peter J. Miller, an Assistant Professor of Classics at the University of Winnipeg. I went to the University of Toronto for my Bachelor of Arts degree, the University of Victoria for my Master’s, and the University of Western Ontario for my PhD. I taught at Mount Allison University (Sackville, NB) and Texas Tech (Lubbock, TX), before finding myself – happily – at the University of Winnipeg.

Photo courtesy of Peter J. Miller

I lived in Winnipeg for one snowy winter when I was two years old, but my parents followed a job contract to warmer climes. Now that my partner and I have decided to make our lives here – and adopt a cat and have a daughter – we’ve discovered that Winnipeg, especially the University community, is a warm and welcoming place to live, learn, and work. I teach the gamut of subjects in Classics and ancient history, from ancient Greek poetry and song, to ancient sports, to modern re-interpretations and adaptations of ancient material. The ancient world of Greece and Rome, I think, is alive in so many facets of the contemporary world, and I love that one major part of my job is to show students how the past and present are in constant dialogue.

Why did you decide to support UWinnipeg?

I’m optimistic: I believe in the enduring mission of a University: to be a gateway to knowledge for students, a place for the creation of knowledge for faculty, and a space where people of diverse backgrounds interact and learn from one another. Universities, I think, are precious and precarious: they’re gifts to us from earlier generations who founded and nurtured them, and we hold them in trust for future generations who will learn and enrich their lives and their communities in the same way.

Since universities across Canada gave me the time to find my interests (through ups-and-downs, and some failed courses), to learn skills that deeply affect my life and sense of self, and to find life-long friends (some real, some fictional), I’m committed to support the University of Winnipeg so that current and future students may find subjects and people that give shape and meaning to their own lives as well. 

Why do you give, and what motivates you?

Students, colleagues, staff, and the public motivate me. In New Directions in Classics, we’ve seen audience members from across these groups at our talks: from new students to retirees to faculty from other universities and Departments. I’m motivated to make Classics and the ancient past meaningful to all of these populations and to get them engaged with what excites me about the ancient world.

What are your areas of interest?

I’m especially interested in bringing people from outside of Winnipeg to the campus. The University has done so much work towards revitalizing downtown Winnipeg and contributing to downtown’s unique creative culture.

As a faculty member and downtown resident, I want to contribute to that revitalization as well. My main focus is our New Directions in Classics series, which brings scholars and artists engaged with Classical Antiquity from outside of Winnipeg to our Department, University, and community: this costs money, but we’ve already done a lot in three years, and I’m focused on building a lasting legacy of stimulating, accessible, and culturally important lectures, talks, workshops, and performances in downtown Winnipeg.

What contributions are you most proud of?

I’m proud of students like those in the University of Winnipeg Classics Students Association, who started their own award to support fellow students; or the students behind the new Student-to-Student award. UWinnipeg students are a unique bunch: focused on community service, social justice, and intellectual challenges. Throughout my education and career, I’ve been supported by professors and colleagues who helped me in ways beyond financial support: I’m motivated to “pay it forward,” by helping students and peers at the University succeed – part of this means supporting UWinnipeg scholarships and other ventures through the Foundation.

What would you say to a peer or colleague who is considering donating?

We’re so lucky as University professors that our donations really shape our workplace and therefore our quality of life as well as that of our students and our community. Universities are transformative spaces – I know because they transform my life constantly – and I think we all want them to keep transforming lives: our own, those of students, and the broader public.

 Visit our crowdfunding page to learn more about or donate to the New Directions in Classics series.