Hampton High alum wills $554k to help students of alma mater
Published 8:29 am Thursday, August 13, 2015
A generous gift from a late alumnus will help students at Hampton High not only during their high school careers but in their college endeavors as well.
On Wednesday afternoon, Hampton High School received a check for $54,212 from the estate of the late Eddie Jack Miller to be used for their band and music programs. The estate also announced it has set up an endowment of a half-Million dollars through the East Tennessee State University Foundation to give scholarships to Hampton High School graduates who want to attend the college.
Miller’s sister, Carol Ann Nesmith, presented the check to HHS Principal Jeff Bradley and spoke to faculty members about her brother and his gifts to Hampton High and its students.
“This was something that was very near and dear to my brother’s heart,” Nesmith said. “He loved his school very much.”
Miller and Nesmith were born in raised in the Rittertown area of Hampton. Miller graduated from Hampton High School in 1958 and his sister followed behind him two years later.
Even after graduating, Miller continued to have a lot of pride in his school, returning to visit and attend reunions as often as he could, Nesmith said.
It was while attending Hampton High that Miller developed his love for music that ultimately led him to leave the endowments to the high school and the college in his will.
“A teacher came to the school by the name of Frank Merritt and Eddie started taking piano lessons from him,” Nesmith said.
Miller went on to East Tennessee State University where he got his bachelor’s degree and then on to the University of Tennessee at Knoxville where he earned a master’s degree. After earning his doctorate degree from the University of Washington in Seattle, Miller began his career as an audiologist with the Veterans Affairs Administration. He lived for a long time on the west coast, Nesmith said, but eventually moved back east and settled down in Washington D.C., where he eventually retired.
Despite his moves across the country, Hampton and the high school retained a special place in her brother’s heart, Nesmith said.
“I know he’s looking down right now and he’s pleased with this,” she said.
The money given to the school has been designated for the music and band programs but no decision has been made so far as to just how the money will be used, Bradley said.
“We’re going to get a small committee together to decide how to best use this money,” he said, adding the committee would consist of school officials, faculty, students and parents. “We want to maximize this money and spend it as wisely as we can.”
The donation came as a shock to Bradley and others at the school. Bradley first learned about the donation when an attorney sent a letter informing the school system that Hampton High School had been named as a beneficiary in Miller’s will, but at that time no dollar amount was mentioned, just that the school would receive a percentage of the Miller estate.
“When the lawyer actually called and gave me the figure I was speechless,” Bradley said. “That amount of generosity from someone is above and beyond what we are used to.”