The Gift of Blossoms

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A sure sign of spring's arrival and all-too-short transit through Evanston is a brief flash of purple, white, and gold over the ground near the south end of campus. Planted across the lawn between Sheridan Road and the sidewalk angling past Harris Hall, Northwestern's crocus bed, when in bloom, is a welcome sign of winter's passage.

The bed is named in honor of Berenice J. Miller (d. 1998), wife of former NU President (later Chancellor) J. Roscoe "Rocky" Miller and Northwestern's "first lady" from 1949 to 1974. A much-admired member of the NU community, Berenice Johannesen Miller grew up in Idaho Falls, Idaho and attended the University of Utah where she met her future husband. Graduating in 1927, Berenice married in 1928 and the Millers moved to Chicago where Rocky took his M.D. (1930) and M.S. (1931) degrees from Northwestern.

Rocky soon joined the faculty of the Northwestern Medical School and, at the remarkably young age of 36, accepted appointment as Medical School dean. Rocky's accomplishments as an administrator were significant and rewarded, he was named the University's president in 1949 and skillfully led Northwestern through a period of dramatic expansion and change.

Widely admired for her modest, unassuming personality and for the hospitality she displayed toward all members of the University community, Berenice was an important campus presence. She was also an active member of several University-affiliated and community organizations, including the Evanston Garden Club. Recognizing her contributions to Northwestern, the University's Board of Trustees surprised Berenice with the award of an honorary Doctor of Laws degree at the 1974 commencement ceremony. A perennial reminder of her graciousness and love for Northwestern, the crocus bed was dedicated that same year.

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