GSPIA professor Miller was a ‘practitioner-scholar’

David Young Miller, long-time professor in the Graduate School of Public and International Affairs and strong proponent of cooperation for efficiency among municipalities, died Nov. 17, 2020, at 73.

“He was really the perfect practitioner-scholar,” recalled his faculty colleague of decades, Kevin Kearns. “Very few people could bring that to the table.”

Already an experienced manager in three different Maine communities when he earned his Ph.D. from GSPIA in 1988, Miller founded the school’s Center for Metropolitan Studies and served as associate dean (1998-2006) and interim dean (2006-07). He was also co-director of GSPIA’s Center for Public Policy and Management in Macedonia (2000-06) with founding leader and faculty colleague William Dunn. Miller was important in administering and teaching in this program, through which many Macedonian government officials passed as students through the years.

He was the author of several highly praised books and many articles on regional governance and earned the Chancellor’s Distinguished Public Service Award in 2012.

Miller was perhaps most widely known for his work that brought together municipal officials in cooperation for the benefit of the region. He was the founding advisor of the Congress of Neighboring Communities (CONNECT) at Pitt, which joins Pittsburgh with its surrounding communities to aim for a public-policy agenda of benefit to all.

Miller also was managing director of the Pennsylvania Economy League (1987-95), whose work remains crucial in the region, says Kearns, and which helped to institute Allegheny County’s home rule charter and the Regional Assets District. The league also helped to modernize the city of Pittsburgh’s governmental functions, he said, and published influential studies concerning municipal fiscal distress and intergovernmental cooperation.

Miller worked as director of Management and Budget for Pittsburgh during the Tom Murphy administration (1996-98), and drew recent praise from Mayor Bill Peduto for his mentorship and advice.

At GSPIA, Kearns said, “He brought that knowledge back into the classroom, which students in a program like GSPIA really appreciate. David was the kind of person who would re-link that practice to the literature, to the theory … to engage students in a vigorous discussion on how the theory plays out in practice, to give them very tangible examples of not only good thinking but about bad thinking and how it plays out in government.

“I was always impressed by the way he did his work with students who came to see him, how he encouraged them,” Kearns said. “He was an excellent teacher. He was a consummate practitioner.”

Miller retired just this summer. He is survived by his wife of 50 years, Marie; children Carrie Hanak, Laura Sowerby and David J. “D.J.” Miller; brothers Donald and Douglas; stepmother JoAnn Miller; and seven grandchildren.

Memorial donations are suggested to the David Y. Miller and Marie K. Miller Fund of the Pittsburgh Foundation, Five PPG Place, Suite 250, Pittsburgh, PA 15222. A service is planned for the future.

— Marty Levine