Posted on Jun 12, 2008



John E. Miller inspired students and colleagues during a career at Union’s Theater and Dance Department that began in 1987 and included dozens of productions at Yulman Theater, the former theater at the Nott Memorial, and at local and regional venues. He died Feb. 14, 2008. He was 59.

During the winter term, Miller had been teaching a class in lighting design and preparing for a winter dance concert. On the morning of Thursday, Feb. 14, Miller was stricken while on campus and transported to Ellis Hospital, where he was later pronounced dead. Miller was a graduate of the State University of New York College at Brockport, having earned degrees in history and theater. Brockport is where Miller was introduced to the theater and the college always held a special place in his heart. He also earned a master’s degree in theater from the University at Binghamton. He was a man of great passions; the first being his family and the second being the theater.

Friend and former colleague Barry K. Smith, who taught at Union from 1971 to 1998, wrote a eulogy that is excerpted below:

“John’s work as a lightning designer always took him above the stage, a special vantage point from which he artistically illuminated the stories below. He loved light. He loved students who helped him create atmospheres that bathed actors and sets with the magic of rainbow colors. “He was a man of quite integrity and sense of humor; a deeply caring man who loved his wife, children, friends and students. “He loved to watch communities of actors being created. He loved to watch students grow in confidence as they found their reasons for performing their roles.”

Miller also worked at the Bristol Valley Playhouse in Naples, N.Y. and was a founding member of Home Made Theater of Saratoga Springs. He was technical director for Curtain Call Theatre of Latham and actively involved with the Blue Roses Theatre of Schenectady High School. He had a deep appreciation for the outdoors and loved camping at Fish Creek in the Adirondacks.

Miller was a native of Amityville, N.Y. and the son of Victor and Lucile (Schaaf) Miller. He is survived by his wife, Linda Dott; their children: Erik, Alyssa, Kristen and Tiana; his brother, James Miller; sisters, Jane (Robert) Riggs and Sally Miller; and several nieces, nephews and cousins. He was predeceased by his siblings Susan and Thomas.

In lieu of flowers, memorial contributions for the children may be sent to: John E. Miller Memorial Fund c/o Trustco Bank 1048 State St., Schenectady, NY 12307.  



David D’Agostino ’06 was well known on campus for his curiosity, warmth and wit. He was also widely admired for the independence and perseverance with which he overcame blindness.

He died March 14, 2008 at his home in Colonie, N.Y. He was 25. “He was such a nice guy, so polite, bright and hardworking,” said his advisor, Professor Linda Stanhope, of psychology. “He just never let [blindness] keep him down at all.”

D’Agostino was an interdisciplinary major in history and psychology. He transferred to Union from Schenectady County Community College at the start of his junior year. He had been blind since his mid-teens, the result of a brain tumor.

He had a strong interest in music—especially hip-hop, reggae and blues—and he took on the persona of “DJ Wits” to provide music for campus events. He was a popular DJ the last three years at Union’s Party in the Garden.

While at Union, he was a frequent reporter and commentator to the Concordiensis. He took public transportation each day from his home in Colonie to Nott Terrace, and from there he would walk to campus, said Shelly Shinebarger, director of Student Support Services, who worked closely with David to provide academic and logistical accommodations. Rarely, she said, he would ask for a ride from Campus Safety.

Shinebarger recalled the day David showed up in her office after being hit by a car while crossing the street. “He said he was fine and that he just needed to sit down,” she said.

Professor George Bizer recalled David as a student in his experimental psychology class, a challenging course that requires data analysis. “I thought, ‘how is he possibly going to understand this stuff ?’” Bizer recalls. But using a small tactile graph to communicate concepts and occasional explanations from the professor, David mastered the material.

William Thomas, director of International Studies, recalled David’s fearless approach to the unknown. He made two trips to England, and one to Germany. “The amazing part of David was his independence,” said Thomas, who helped arrange his term abroad in York, England.

At York, he received the Kate Hollister Prize as an outstanding study abroad student, and he returned to commencement at York St. John University to receive the prize and a warm ovation, Thomas said.

“He loved participating in everything we arranged for the exchange students during his term abroad, especially going to Paris and realizing a childhood dream of visiting the Eiffel tower and the Louvre,” said Maggie Williams, a coordinator at York.