Welded Metal Sculptures

The world lost Grant Miller, M.D. on May 31, 2019, from complications due to Type I diabetes. As a juvenile diabetic, he was told that he would not live past 40; he surpassed this prognosis by 37 years.

Grant’s early childhood was spent in a small country village called Big Springs, South Dakota. He lived in the Big Springs Baptist Church parsonage with his minister father, mother, and three sisters. Most activities revolved around the church and the one-room schoolhouse that was down the gravel road about a block. Here, the kids played ball, sledded in the winter, and parked their horses in the barn down the hill from the schoolhouse. This community valued church, work, education, creativity, and music.

Even as a boy, Grant was multitalented. He made and sold birdhouses and fishing flies, rebuilt a Cushman motor scooter and later a Model A Ford sedan. An aunt, who was an art teacher, recognized his early drawing and painting abilities.

After Grant’s first year of high school, the family moved to another rural church near Worthington, Minnesota. A year later following a football physical, he was diagnosed with diabetes by an internist with whom he developed a close relationship. Grant attended Worthington Junior College where he excelled academically. During that time he worked part-time as a reporter for the Worthington Daily Globe.

Grant then moved to Minneapolis and completed both his B.A. in psychology and M.D. at the University of Minnesota. He published his honors thesis in psychology on the critical fusion frequency of moving targets, work conducted in the Laboratory of Physiological Hygiene where K-rations for G.I.’s were developed during World War II by Ansel Keys, M.D.

While an undergraduate in psychology, Skinnerian learning theory helped Grant understand certain religious behaviors. These insights guided his later selection of a residency in psychiatry at the University of Oregon. During his fourth year of residency he did an elective in psychotherapy under the supervision of a Freudian analyst. This experience led to his accepting a position as a psychiatrist in the Student Health Services at California Polytechnic State University in San Luis Obispo. Here he developed a life-long interest in human developmental theories.

After seven years at Cal Poly, Grant joined his former Oregon residency director, Ira Pauly, to teach medical students at the University of Nevada School of Medicine in Reno. He ran the inpatient ward and taught medical students on their psychiatry clerkship rotation at the Reno VA Medical Center. There he reformatted the mental status examination to relate more closely to the then new DSM-III and taught psychiatric assessment and diagnosis.

Shortly thereafter, Grant was asked to be the Associate Dean for Student Affairs. His Cal Poly experience with young adults served him well; he helped develop several new professional developmentally-oriented programs for medical students between 1979 and 1988. One example was his establishment of the Manville Gallery within the University of Nevada School of Medicine in Reno. Here Grant held monthly, juried shows of contemporary artists; he devoted one month each year to medical student, staff, and faculty art. His publications on programs for medical student development advanced him through the academic chain from assistant to full professor with tenure.

In 1988, Grant was asked to focus his efforts on psychiatric residency planning and development. The program was accredited allowing the Department to elevate the standard of psychiatric services and provide competent psychiatrists for Nevada.

Grant maintained a small private practice while teaching medical students and residents. He also provided psychiatric services to several clinics including the Apple Street Clinic of the Nevada Psychiatric Institute, Elko Mental Health Clinic, UNR Student Health Clinic, and the Loyalton Mental Health Clinic.

Grant received numerous awards. His honors included the Outstanding Teacher Award given by the medical school in 1994 and a Distinguished Fellowship by the American Psychiatric Association in 2003. The faculty developed the “Grant Miller” award to honor the resident who approximated some of the depth and breadth of Grant’s being. The committee decided to give the first award to Grant. Barbara Kohlenberg said the following in her presentation of the award to Grant: “It is difficult to find words for this thing that Grant does. Moments with Grant can go so deep, touch the heart, touch the mind, and somehow spread to others in a generous way. Grant has a way of standing close to human suffering, with kindness, compassion, curiosity, and hope….helping to alleviate that suffering and or find meaning in it.”

The greatest adult learning experience for Grant came through Jungian analysis with Ladson Hinton. Here he clarified the impact of his past life experiences and endorsed all aspects of human kind. This also led to an interest in Greek mythology and the publishing of his article on the wounded healer, his favorite paper of all his lifetime writing efforts. These personal experiences became important background components in his therapeutic work with patients as were other existential passions including art, design, and construction. All his passions in life brought meaningful connections with a variety of people including carpenters, secretaries, contractors, mechanics, artists, writers, researchers, psychiatrists, and psychologists.

During Grant’s gradual retirement, he continued his passion for creating art through welded metal, non-representational and abstract sculpture. Early in this new venture he received awards for his work that began with materials used in construction. Recently he moved to developing more formal designs through the use of stainless steel. One of his pieces was placed on Fourth Street in Reno for a year. Another stood by the Truckee River in Reno, but will now be transferred to its permanent home in the sculpture garden at Truckee Meadows Community College.

Memories of Grant will live on through his art, teaching, publications, and mostly through his interpersonal relations with so many people. In the last week of his life he emphasized that the most important thing in life is love. He leaves behind many who love him dearly. He credits his wife, Leslie Miller, with care and love that sustained him through good and poor health. Grant’s family also includes his daughter Lara and husband Michael Clayton; grandchildren Zachary, Emily, and Elizabeth and her husband Austin Marrett; three sisters; and cousins in Canada.


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