Unsung Hero: James Miller, Pembroke Hill School

A model for servant leadership, Miller makes time to lend a hand to students, family and staff alike.

Sep 25, 2020


The Will J. Hancock Unsung Hero Award is given to business officers who have made extraordinary contributions to their schools and exemplify exceptional integrity, knowledge and motivation. At the end of each school year, new Unsung Heroes receive their award from their head of school, often at a significant school occasion such as a board meeting or an all-school ceremony. What makes these Unsung Heroes so special? The highlights below come straight from their colleagues' nominations.

See a full list of the 2020 recipients. Stay tuned to NetAssets.org for additional profiles.

Title: Chief Financial Officer
School: Pembroke Hill School, Kansas City, Missouri
Years in Position: 18
Years in an independent school business office: 18

Superpower: Heart of gold: “James gives 150% of himself to Pembroke Hill School each day,” said Vanessa Alpert, Pembroke’s human resources director. “He is usually the first to arrive and the last to leave. "He has taken an active role with students, chaperoning international field trips and working with families with hardships in the business office. He volunteers his time for the school, involves his family whole-heartedly and genuinely cares about each member of the community. He has a heart of gold and acts as a true pillar of the school for administrators, faculty, students and families. That shows in his everyday work and actions.”

Extraordinary journey: Miller first joined Pembroke Hill School working for a vendor that managed the school's food service, during which time he brought “healthy meals and continuity to the food service staff through a caring management style.” He then went on to work directly for Pembroke, managing the school’s bookstore. In the years since, he has stepped into the roles of controller, business officer and, currently, chief financial officer.

Master manager: Miller has four direct and four indirect reports in HR, accounting, IT and the bookstore, while overseeing operations and staff in facilities and food service. “This is in large part because many people want him on his team. Any of his direct reports will tell you that he is a caring, empowering and a fantastic person to work with. He guides you gently when you need it, supports you whenever and wherever you need it, and is not too high and mighty to do any task.”

Servant leader: “James Miller is a quiet leader. He's not pretentious or selfish, and he does not toot his own horn, so to speak. He leads by example, contributing his own personal excellence, always with a smile on his face. He is just as friendly to the janitor as he is with our head of school. He models volunteer service and is not above doing any job that needs to be done — he will often pick up trash on campus just because he cares.”

Global citizen: “James grew up in Africa, the son of two missionaries. This upbringing helped give him global perspective and an appreciation of life, people, giving and thankfulness. He volunteers on Africa Day [an annual celebration of African history, culture and geography], and speaks to students about the culture and customs of where he grew up.”

See a full list of the 2020 recipients and read more about the Will J. Hancock Unsung Hero Award. NetAssets.org will post additional profiles of Unsung Heroes throughout the fall — check in to learn more about other recipients.




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