Yale Alumni Magazine

After a nearly 40-year career at the University, former Dean of Yale College Mary Miller will retire from Yale in December to serve as the director of the Getty Research Institute in Los Angeles, starting on January 1, 2019.

Dean of Yale College, head of Saybrook College for nearly a decade, History of Art Department chair, director of graduate and undergraduate studies for the history of art, member of several University-wide committees and chair of the Yale University Art Gallery director search committee — Miller has worn many hats at Yale. She was the first female dean of Yale College, and, in 2019, she will shatter another glass ceiling when she becomes the first female director of the Getty Research Institute.

Miller, who has spent the majority of her adult life at Yale and married her best friend from graduate school, said she struggled to even frame her thoughts on leaving the institution that has shaped her life and career. Still, she looks forward to the challenges ahead.

“I have learned so much from Yale, and I know and recognize all the ways that Yale has helped make me the person I am,” she said. “To have [the] opportunity to engage in museums, public education and research all at once is just thrilling, and that’s clearly one of the areas where I will focus my attention.”

In 2016, Miller was named the senior director of the Institute for the Preservation of Cultural Heritage at West Campus. Over the course of her two years at the helm of the institute, she reorganized the program and boosted fundraising efforts, in addition to leading Yale’s collaboration with the Smithsonian Institution.

When she succeeded former dean of Yale College and current University President Peter Salovey in 2008, then University President Richard Levin called Miller, who at the time was master of Saybrook College, “an exemplary academic citizen.” For six years, she worked alongside Levin to plan the expansion of the undergraduate population and assess and implement curricular recommendations from the Committee on Yale College Education.

In a statement to the News on Thursday, Levin, who worked closely with Miller during her time as chair of the History of Art Department, head of Saybrook College and dean of Yale College, said Miller is a “clear, incisive problem solver” who cares deeply for her students.

“She excelled at every role,” he said. “She is intense, but she also sees and enjoys the humor in a situation.”

The Getty Research Institute in Los Angeles, one of four branches of the J. Paul Getty Trust, houses a research library, hosts exhibitions and collections and produces publications. It also offers public programs, institutional collaborations and residential scholars programs.

J. Paul Getty Trust President and CEO James Cuno said Miller brings with her a unique understanding of the importance and practice of cultural heritage conservation. He added that she will work collaboratively with the director of Getty Conservation Institute, another branch of the Getty Trust.

“She’s a renowned scholar and a proven administrator and brings to the Getty … experience [at] Yale in all the capacities she has served and her vision of an expansive art history that is global,” Cuno said.

After getting her doctorate at Yale, Miller joined the University faculty in 1981. In addition to having occupied several administrative positions at Yale, Miller is a leading scholar and author of more than a dozen books on Mesoamerican art. Indeed, in an interview with the News, she said her most productive years of scholarship were her years in the Yale College deanship. According to Richard Burger, the chair of the Council of Archaeological Studies, Miller is one of the “pioneers” of the study of Mayan art with world-renowned work on murals of Bonampak.

A recipient of the Guggenheim Fellowship and a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, Miller is also the only Yale faculty member to have delivered both the A.W. Mellon Lectures in the Fine Arts at the National Gallery of Art and the Slade Lectures at the University of Cambridge. While serving as Yale College dean, she secured a $1.8 million gift from the Mellon Foundation for an “integrated humanities program” for doctoral students. And in 2016, she was awarded the Yale Alumni’s Howard R. Lamar Award for leadership and service to the University.

“I have had the pleasure of working closely with Mary over more than a decade,” wrote Salovey in a campuswide email Thursday announcing Miller’s departure. “Like so many others around campus, I will miss her tenacity and attentiveness, her wisdom and enthusiasm, her wit and candor, and that trademark inquisitiveness with which she never misses a detail.”

Miller earned her bachelor’s from Princeton in 1975.

Hailey Fuchs | hailey.fuchs@yale.edu