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Athletic administrator Beth Miller left her mark on UNC

Beth Miller

Beth Miller

Don’t ask Miller, senior woman administrator and senior associate director of athletics, who she’ll miss the most when she retires in July because they’re all important. Miller speaks with authority but also compassion after overseeing more than 30 national championships in her 40 years at UNC. She was recently named one of the top 10 woman administrators in the country by

What she won’t tell you is her impact on the people she cares about, which is no surprise to her friends and colleagues.

Miller was UNC’s volleyball coach for nine years. She led the Tar Heels to four successive ACC titles and five post-season tournament appearances, two of which former player Donna Gutterman competed in.

It took Gutterman more than 25 years to call Miller by her first name, not because Miller asked, but out of respect.

“She’s not one of those people that are hung up on titles, she is very down to Earth,” she said.

Miller grew up in the small town of Landis, N.C., where women’s sports were lacking. Her junior high only offered women’s basketball. It wasn’t until high school that women’s track and volleyball were added. Miller didn’t always know she’d work in sports administration, in fact at one time her dream was to teach high school physical education and coach. However, the one thing she did know was that she loved athletics.

Her love continued in college, earning both her bachelor’s degree in health and physical education and her master’s from Appalachian State. She then earned her Doctor of Arts degree in physical education at Middle Tennessee State.

Miller has worn many hats at UNC ranging from softball coach to business manager.

Her passion is evident in her work, said field hockey coach Karen Shelton. Shelton said she has the utmost respect for Miller.

“You knew that she always tried to be fair to everyone, and she was in a tough spot because her job was to kind of filter things that would go up the chain to the athletic director,” Shelton said. “I tease her, and when I tease her I tell her she’s like my mean big sister because she doesn’t always say yes, nor could she, but the older you get the more you understand and respect that.”

Title IX started in 1972, just a few years before Miller began working at UNC. Shelton said she had just three scholarships when she came to the UNC.

Between 1981 and 1982, Miller worked with UNC to bring the women’s sports programs to NCAA status, which led to a rise in female student-athlete scholarships.

Miller was at the forefront of expanding the athletic program and created a policy to include women’s lacrosse and rowing, said Larry Gallo, associate director of athletics.

“Beth in her own humble way has made a huge difference in college athletics,” he said.

But don’t ask Miller what her favorite sport is because she doesn’t have one. Her commitment is to women’s and men’s sports alike, and much of her career has been dedicated to UNC’s Olympic sports. She oversaw 26 teams before switching to 13 nearly three years ago.

“She’s just a wonderful person who enjoys what she does and really enjoys what she does more so if the outcomes for others are very, very positive,” Gallo said.

Others like women’s soccer coach Anson Dorrance. Miller made a point to send handwritten letters congratulating the team on its success.

“She’s got 60,000 things she’s got to do in light of how many programs she’s managing, and yet those handwritten notes were always heart felt,” Dorrance said.

The 21-time NCAA champion said Miller is one of a kind.

“I think when she dies she’s going to go straight to heaven because in administrating my free spirit she has spent her hell on Earth,” Dorrance said.

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Miller didn’t only manage coaches but also student-athletes. Gutterman remembers Miller as a coach but also as a mentor and friend.

“When people talk about all the accolades of Dean Smith and about how great a person he is about teaching you about life, I would say the say the same thing about Beth,” Gutterman said. “She taught us the importance of team, but she also taught us the importance of growing up to be good young women.

“It wasn’t all about winning. It was about us being the best we could be on and off the court. She wanted us to be good people.”

For that’s what Miller exemplifies herself, whether she admits it or not.