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Obituary: The Revd Dr Patrick Miller

09 October 2020

Canon Keith Pound writes:

THE Revd Dr Patrick Miller was born in India in 1933, and returned to this country for schooling. During his National Service, he was selected to take part in an important project that required him to learn Russian. At Christ’s College, Cambridge, he read theology. We first met at Cuddesdon in 1956, the beginnings of a friendship that lasted from that day to this.

His first curacy was in Portsmouth, from where he went to a post at the University Church in Cambridge which he combined with being the local organiser for the Student Christian Movement. He then took up his first full-time teaching post at Manchester Grammar School.

In 1969, at the age of 36, he became a Residentiary Canon of Southwark Cathedral, advising on education. This was not a happy time, and, after three years, he moved on, cutting short what was bound to be an interesting career in the Church.

Southwark’s loss was education’s gain. He took on a post at Queen Mary’s College at Basingstoke, then as Principal of Sunbury College, and finally undertook his great task as Principal of Esher College. Here, between 1981 and 1998, he expanded the student body and developed the buildings.

For a period in his retirement, he was chaplain to the London Flotilla. He had been in the navy for his National Service, and enjoyed the company of sea-going people. He also directed a programme, Learning for Living, which invited schoolchildren to submit pieces of work reflecting ethical and social values in society.

After retirement, his active participation in parish life resumed, and he found a welcome home in the parish of Ewell, which he greatly appreciated. He took a share in the worship and inevitably in leading courses of adult education in the faith and its application to contemporary issues.

During his time at Esher College, he received his Ph.D. In 2018, he drew together some of his thinking about education in his book Dilemmas and Decisions. He draws a distinction between these two, arguing that too much of the time we allow people to confuse the two, looking for solutions to problems that are, in fact, dilemmas with which we have to cope in an unresolved way. Education may train people to make decisions of a finite kind, but it is less good at teaching us to live with the uncertainty of that which may not be resolved.

Patrick enjoyed gardening and sailing, theatre and cinema. His reading covered a wide range of serious and less serious works. He played the guitar and enjoyed all kinds of music, especially jazz.

To all these enterprises Patrick brought those qualities for which he was admired, valued, and loved. His personal support for intellectual rigour never wavered, and his many pupils over the years have him to thank for his ruthless search for excellence and his probing and questioning approach. He will be missed by many, especially generations of students in Esher, and his colleagues, who held him in high regard.

He died on 23 August at his home in Ewell. Our condolences at the loss of a distinguished teacher, scholar, and educational administrator go to his wife, Susanne, and the rest of the family. His funeral will take place at Ewell Parish Church, with limited attendance because of the current rules. Many lives will be the poorer without him.

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