MORAGA, Calif. — Brother Ernest Miller, FSC, the vice president of mission, diversity and inclusion at La Salle University in Philadelphia, was honored on Wednesday afternoon for his decades of educational excellence by Saint Mary’s College of California.
The celebration took place during SMC’s academic convocation, part of the school’s annual month-long celebration of its own Lasallian heritage, which is uniquely connected to Catholic education.
The theme for this year’s events at SMC was “All Together More”—highlighting the school’s commitment to its own inclusion initiatives.
“It was an absolute delight to welcome [Miller] as our Distinguished Lasallian Educator for this year’s De La Salle Heritage Days celebration,” said Dr. Frances Sweeney, SMC’s vice president for mission.
“As we celebrate the College's commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion, Brother Ernest's leadership in this area is noteworthy.”
Miller, who is African American, was raised in New Orleans and joined the De La Salle Brothers in 1993. He has served since 2015 at La Salle, one of the Blackest Catholic universities in America (at 17% among undergraduates as of 2020).
In March, La Salle’s president announced that Miller will depart the school this summer to serve as founding director of the Adrien Nyel Project, a new Lasallian teaching excellence program geared toward young adults.
This week, Miller spoke during the convocation at SMC—whose board he will join in July—on a variety of topics, including the need for students to be inspired in their education with Catholic Social Teaching.
“[Attacking injustice at its core] consists in educating our students in a sense of justice, in imbuing them with a thirst for justice, in forming their consciences to be sensitive to sins of injustice, in educating them to use the instruments that promote justice and cast out injustice,” Miller said.
“This requires a carefully prepared curriculum with engagement across the whole institution.”
His speech featured odes to the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Dr. Cornel West, Dr. W.E.B. Du Bois, Ta Nehisi Coates, and a fellow Black Catholic in Servant of God Thea Bowman—whose own ministry also focused on Catholic education and the urgency of social issues affecting the Black community.
“To tell the ‘true truth’, as Sister [Thea] would say: bodies, born of other bodies, matter,” he noted.
“The struggle to create an anti-racist, more egalitarian democratic society impels us to grasp that your body matters.”
The thrust of Miller’s message called the Saint Mary’s College community to commit itself fully to the call of the Lasallian charism, describing the Brothers and their associates as one of the few institutions in the world with such a storied international legacy of education.
Their work dates back to their 17th-century French founder, St John Baptiste de La Salle, whose 371st birth anniversary the Church celebrated on April 30th.
Nate Tinner-Williams is co-founder and editor of Black Catholic Messenger, a seminarian with the Josephites, and a ThM student with the Institute for Black Catholic Studies at Xavier University of Louisiana (XULA).