University of Vermont

Holly and Bob Miller Donate $3 Million to Establish Chair in Palliative Medicine

Robert E. Gramling, M.D., D.Sc., invested as inaugural Miller chair

Philanthropists Holly and Bob Miller at the investiture of the inaugural Holly and Bob Miller Chair in Palliative Medicine event. (Photo: UVM Foundation)

Vermont philanthropists Holly and Bob Miller have capped decades of support to strengthen palliative care and clinical services in end-of-life care in Vermont with a $3 million gift to establish the Holly and Bob Miller Chair in Palliative Medicine at the University of Vermont College of Medicine.

The gift was celebrated today in a ceremony held June 10 at the Dudley H. Davis Center to install Robert E. Gramling, M.D., D.Sc. as the inaugural Miller Chair — the 100th endowed faculty position at the university. At the investiture, nationally recognized palliative care expert BJ Miller, M.D., a close friend of Gramling, shared his own near-death experience and how it fundamentally altered his views on living and dying well.

"We thank Holly and Bob Miller from the bottom of our hearts for their lasting impact on this University and its ability to attract and retain excellent faculty members like Professor Bob Gramling," said UVM President Tom Sullivan.

Holly and Bob Miller are passionately committed to making real change in Vermont. Their exceptional leadership and tireless work have significantly advanced all aspects of the University of Vermont’s academic health sciences programs, through this gift to the College of Medicine and through longstanding and generous support of the College of Nursing and Health Sciences, the UVM Medical Center, and many other university programs and priorities.

“Dr. Gramling’s national leadership and expertise in palliative and hospice care will ensure the development of a top-notch palliative medicine program at UVM,” said Frederick Morin, M.D., dean of the UVM College of Medicine. “We are deeply grateful to the Millers for making this possible and thrilled to welcome him to the UVM faculty.”

Holly Miller has served as a member of the Advisory Board of the College of Nursing and Health Sciences and a member of the Palliative Care Collaborative that includes UVM, the UVM Medical Center, and the Visiting Nurse Association. In 2013 the couple donated Holly Court in Williston, Vt., a fifteen-acre site with a commercial building, to the UVM Medical Center. The gift, valued at $13.1 million, made the Millers the largest donors ever to the UVM Medical Center.

Holly has consistently provided leadership around systems of care that improve the quality of life for Vermonters facing the end of life. She has been a champion of hospice through her volunteer work, her funded initiatives to improve the education and care nurses and physicians provide to patients at the end of their lives, her committee work with the Madison-Deane Initiative to advance public understanding of end-of-life care, and her role as a founding director of Vermont Respite House. Among other key roles, she served as a trustee and chair of the board on the VNA Board of Directors. She also was a founding member of the board of the UVM Medical Center Foundation (then the Fletcher Allen Health Care Foundation) and served as trustee and chairwoman of the board for Champlain College.

As founder and owner of REM Development Co., the largest commercial real estate development firm in Vermont, Bob has provided extraordinary leadership that contributed to the development and economic success of the Champlain Exposition, the City of Burlington, and many projects in the Northeast Kingdom. He served as director of the Lake Champlain Regional Chamber of Commerce and chair of the Airport Commission at Burlington International Airport.

The Millers have been honored as Vermont Philanthropists of the Year and received honorary degrees from Champlain College in 2009 and from the University of Vermont in 2015.

Dr. Robert Gramling Invested as First Miller Chair

Robert E. Gramling, M.D., D.Sc. was invested as the inaugural Holly and Bob Miller Chair in Palliative Medicine. He will also serve as the inaugural chief of the Division of Palliative Medicine in the Department of Family Medicine at the College of Medicine.

Gramling comes to the University of Vermont from the University of Rochester, where he was associate professor in Family Medicine, Public Health and Nursing and research co-director in its Division of Palliative Care. His research focuses on understanding prognosis communication between patients, families and clinicians in the context of advanced illness, how approaches to communicating prognosis affect quality of life and treatment choices, and whether these patterns differ by the patient's cultural background. He has authored more than 70 publications and received research funding from the National Institutes of Health, the National Palliative Care Reseearch Center, the Greenwall Bioethics Foundation and the American Cancer Society. Dr. Gramling is a recognized leader in palliative and hospice care and will be responsible for expanding the palliative medicine program at the UVM Medical Center and the College of Medicine.

“We are incredibly grateful to Holly and Bob Miller, not only for their extraordinary philanthropy that makes this endowed chair in palliative medicine possible, but also for Holly’s spirit and vision for palliative care here at UVM and across Vermont,” said Gramling. “Holly understands deeply how critical it is for those of us who care for seriously ill and dying people to be fully present with them and their loved ones, and that the quality of our communication and compassion makes all the difference."

Palliative Care Expert on "The Civics of Dying Well"

The investiture ceremony was highlighted by a talk entitled “The Civics of Dying Well” by BJ Miller, M.D., senior director/advocate for the Zen Hospice Project, San Francisco, and assistant clinical professor of medicine at the University of California San Francisco.

Miller’s passion for palliative care stems from personal experience — an electrical shock sustained while a Princeton undergraduate that cost him three limbs and nearly killed him. But his experiences, chronicled in his popular TED talk, "What Really Matters at the End of Life", form the foundation of a hard-won empathy for patients. Along with the Zen Hospice Project he directs, Miller helps patients face chronic pain and their own deaths realistically, comfortably, and on their own terms. Through the work of Zen Hospice Project, Miller is cultivating a model for palliative care organizations around the world, and emphasizing healthcare’s quixotic relationship to the inevitability of death.

About The University of Vermont Foundation

The University of Vermont Foundation is a nonprofit corporation established to secure and manage private support for the benefit of the University of Vermont. The Foundation is currently engaged in a comprehensive campaign with four strategic priorities: student access and scholarship; faculty research and support; student-centered programs; and long-term investments in the physical campus. Move Mountains: The Campaign for The University of Vermont seeks to raise $500 million in private support and assert UVM's position as one of the nation's best public research universities. For further information about giving to UVM, contact the University of Vermont Foundation: (802) 656-2010, www.uvmfoundation.org, email foundation@uvm.edu.

 

Watch the Investiture Ceremony for Holly and Bob Miller:

Part I
Part II