Remembering: Long-time Spartan volunteer Pat Miller

Dec. 20, 2022 

Green and white runs deep for the Miller family

Special to the College of Engineering, by Brenda Power and Mike Miller

On a late October afternoon in 2022, Richard Lunt, the Johansen Crosby Professor at Michigan State University, shared the story of his favorite boot-strapping start-up to a seminar of MSU engineering seniors.

Three generations of the Miller family are Spartan loyal. Pat, Max, Dee, and Michael enjoyed Grandparents University a few years ago.
Three generations of the Miller family are Spartan loyal. Pat, Max, Dee, and Michael enjoyed Grandparents University a few years ago.

The subject of the class was entrepreneurship in engineering, and the case study was of MGA Research Corporation. Lunt talked about how the founder of the company, Patrick Michael Miller (’57, ’60 ‘66), launched MGA with $700 and a passion for practical automotive safety research and design.

But the story was old news for one of the students in the class, Patrick Michael Miller III. Michael, a student in applied engineering sciences, is Pat Miller’s grandson. He had already spent his summers bouncing between work with his father and grandfather at MGA. He also had attended Grandparents University at MSU with his Grandpa Pat and Grandma Dee. By the time Michael’s grandfather had passed away in December 2022 at age 86, he had cemented three generations of strong ties between his family and Michigan State University.

Miller received his undergraduate degree in math at Michigan State in 1957, a master’s in mechanical engineering in 1960, and a Ph.D. in applied mechanics in 1966. The best thing that ever happened to him was meeting his future wife Dee at a dance in his first month on campus. The couple and their young family would return to East Lansing for three years in the 1960s while Miller completed a Ph.D. Their children attended the Red Cedar School when the Millers lived in on-campus housing on Cherry Lane. It was on Cherry Lane that the Millers met many MSU graduate students and their families from across the country and world, inspiring lifelong international friendships.

After earning his doctorate, the family moved to western New York. Miller began work in the automotive safety field, leading design and testing efforts to make vehicles more durable. Launched as a three-person shop in a small office park in Cheektowaga, New York, in 1977, MGA is a family owned and operated business that expanded over the next 45 years to include large facilities in Akron, New York; Detroit, Michigan, and seven other testing and engineering sites throughout the U.S. and Canada. Scores of MGA employees, many with degrees from MSU, continue to spearhead safety efforts in automotive, aircraft, and space vehicle design.

Miller was an international leader, testifying before the U.S. Congress about automotive safety. He used the academic skills he gained at MSU to author and present dozens of research studies and became the first person in his discipline to publish an article in Scientific American.

He received the distinguished alumni award from MSU and served on advisory boards for the MSU College of Engineering for many years. He established the MGA Research Corporation Endowed Fund for Entrepreneurship to help fund a class on entrepreneurial engineering.

Miller was a strong advocate for risk taking, ethical leadership and hard work in his advisory roles at MSU. Of all his responsibilities at MGA, mentoring young engineers was the one he prized the most.

Three of the Miller’s four children attended Michigan State, and now their grandchildren continue the tradition. Members of the Miller family are often in the stands at basketball and football games. And even though their children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren are now spread across the country from California to Maine, their blood will always run green.

Read more on the life of Patrick Michael Miller here.

Article is courtesy of Brenda Power and Mike Miller, the children of Pat and Dee Miller.