Yale police investigate “apparent suicide”

Yale police are investigating a death that occurred on campus Thursday, which the University and police have termed an “apparent suicide.”

John Miller MUS ’07, the School of Music’s manager of community programs, died after falling from the fourth story window of Hendrie Hall at 165 Elm St. Miller was discovered lying on the pavement of the building’s rear parking lot in critical condition early Thursday morning. Though the investigation is ongoing, Vice President and University Secretary Linda Lorimer said there is no evidence of “foul play” in the incident.

News of Miller’s death sent shock waves through not only the School of Music community but also the city’s public schools, where Miller had been a central figure of music education for the past five years.

“It’s a horrible tragedy,” Lorimer told the News. “He was a remarkable contributor to the University and New Haven, and not simply the School of Music.”

Yale School of Music Dean Robert Blocker first notified members of the School of Music of the incident at 8:03 a.m, writing that Miller had fallen from Hendrie Hall in a “serious accident” earlier that morning. At the time, he said Miller was in critical condition.

Miller’s condition remained unclear throughout the morning, but Lorimer notified the Yale community that Miller had died in a campus-wide email sent at 3:51 p.m. She said that Miller’s parents had been contacted, and came to New Haven on Thursday.

Hendrie Hall houses the School of Music’s brass, percussion and opera departments, along with practice spaces and offices for undergraduate musical organizations.

Two Yale custodians were the first to arrive at the scene Thursday, said Morris Sumpter, a cook at the Graduate Club adjacent to Hendrie Hall. Sumpter said he swiped into work at 6:22 a.m. and looked out the window at 6:25 a.m. to see Miller lying on his side on the pavement.

Members of the fire department arrived shortly afterward and tried to perform CPR, Sumpter said. Police then towed a car from the parking lot while an ambulance transported Miller to the hospital, according to a Yale custodian who works in Hendrie Hall.

Police investigators cordoned off a portion of the parking lot behind Hendrie Hall and also sealed off the building. There was blood on the pavement of the parking lot, and police were seen removing a bloody tie and other clothing from the ground around 10 a.m.

Two fourth story windows overlooking the rear of Hendrie Hall and directly over the scene remained open late Thursday morning, and had no screens. The building remained closed until further notice as of late Thursday afternoon.

As police investigated the incident on Yale’s campus, Gina Wells, principal of the K-8 John C. Daniels School, said she broke the news of Miller’s death to students in the band he had directed. Miller had been the school’s first ever instrumental music teacher, according to Ellen Maust, the facilitator of music for the New Haven public schools.

In his role at Yale, Miller oversaw the Music in the Schools Initiative, a brainchild of Blocker’s that brings School of Music students into New Haven public schools as teachers. With financial support from a Yale Class of 1957 grant that also funded Miller’s position, the initiative conducted numerous music education programs for New Haven schoolchildren. The program began at John C. Daniels, and now operates to varying degrees in 25 city schools.

While School of Music students had volunteered at city schools in the past, Maust said the scale and coordination of Miller’s efforts were unprecedented. Miller’s efforts represented a “true partnership” that went above and beyond volunteer work, she said. The initiative, which is beginning its fifth year this fall, places about 10 School of Music students in New Haven public schools to work as teachers each academic year.

More than 300 schoolchildren in the city have directly felt the impact of Miller’s work, she said, adding that activities he helped create have spread into almost all of the city’s schools and include 1,000 students from surrounding towns.

The John C. Daniels School will host a memorial service for Miller next Friday at about 9 a.m., Wells said. The service will be open to John C. Daniels and Yale community members alike.

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