Alumni board president keeps UNM ties tight
By Leslie Linthicum
Amy Miller’s UNM cred goes well beyond her two academic degrees — a B.A. in Journalism and Sociology in 1985 and a Master of Public Administration in 1993.
First, let’s look at her family tree. Miller’s dad, James P. Miller Sr., received his PhD from UNM and taught in the College of Education. While dad was getting his doctorate, her mom, Millie, worked in administration in the Department of Geology.
Miller’s brother, James P. Miller Jr., is a two-time UNM graduate with his B.A. and PhD. Her sister, Susan Lester, has a B.A. from UNM. Miller’s sister, Linda Miller, diverged from the family tradition and got her degrees from NMSU but worked at UNM in Computer and Information Resources and Technology.
Miller’s husband, Cliff McNary, got his B.A. at UNM in 1986 and his M.A. in 1994.
The McNary/Miller children are also Lobos. Daughter Kiera received a bachelor’s in chemistry in 2019 and a master’s in nanosciences and microsystems engineering in 2021. And son Thailen just graduated with a B.S. in psychology. Amy’s nephew Kavi Miller graduated with a B.A. in business in 2020 and niece Zunyi Miller graduated with her business degree in May alongside Thailen.
In 1995, her father received one of the first Zia Awards given by the Alumni Association
to honor outstanding alumni who live in New Mexico. In 2016, brother Jim received
the same award.
Miller, 59, the incoming president of the UNM Alumni Association, takes obvious delight in drawing the map of her ties to Loboland.
“I have deep roots,” she says with a laugh.
Miller joined the Alumni Association board in 2017 and she has spent the past two years working on board development, particularly in strengthening the board by encouraging more diversity and active commitment among members.
“We want the board to look like the state,” Miller says. “And we want board members to be engaged in being great ambassadors for UNM.”
Miller wants to continue that work as president, to work on ramping up in-person alumni events that have been curtailed during the pandemic and to also support the career mentoring efforts spearheaded by the previous two presidents, Michael Silva and Chad Cooper. Silva and Cooper, both African American men who served during two years of unrest and activism — and spurred by the death of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis police —brought their activism to the role of president.
Miller intends to allow her own passions — environmental sustainability, social justice and access to education — to guide her term.
“Maybe it’s a function of age, but I am not going to sit silently,” Miller says. “I am focused on living and breathing my values.”
• Miller lives in a house near North Campus that was the original location of Animal Humane Association of New Mexico.
• Since she graduated, Miller has never lived more than two miles from Main Campus.
• Miller and McNary’s two children came into their family via adoption from South Korea.
• Miller’s fur babies are cattle dog Baby and Boxer/Pointer cross George.
• While an undergrad, Miller played in the UNM flute choir.
One of Miller’s early values was education. Her father was a school administrator in Anthony, N.M. on the southern border. He moved the family to Albuquerque in 1971 to pursue a PhD and young Amy explored the campus in the afternoons after school let out.
After her father completed his doctorate, the family moved to Santa Fe, where her father served as superintendent of schools.
When 1981 came around and Miller was a 17-year-old high school graduate without much direction, she listened to her father’s advice.
“My dad really wanted me to go to UNM,” Miller says. “He believed very strongly that this university changed his life and the life of our family.”
So, she moved into Alvarado Hall.
“I was pretty fuzzy-headed,” Miller says. “My first year was a little tough.”
She had no idea what she wanted to do with her life and adjusting from small-town Santa Fe to big-city Albuquerque was a challenge.
In her second year, she got involved in modern dance and music, where she found her people. She was also a good writer; in high school she had worked as an intern at the Santa Fe New Mexican newspaper, running copy in the frantic days when inmates took over the New Mexico Penitentiary. She took some journalism classes at UNM and found her major.
“I just like talking to people and hearing their experiences,” Miller says.
Her first job was technical editing, then she moved into communications and marketing with the state’s credit unions and rural electric coops. During that time, Miller was involved in a serious motorcycle accident on Central Avenue in front of UNM and spent months undergoing surgeries and physical rehabilitation.
One day, when she was learning how to walk again, she took a stroll through campus and saw a flyer for the Master of Public Administration degree program. She enrolled in graduate school, started dating and married her husband (whom she met during their undergrad years) and found another lifelong passion.
“I have a love for politics and public policy,” Miller says. At PNM, the electric company where she worked for 15 years, Miller was able to combine her skills in communication and government affairs.
In 2017, PNM initiated deep layoffs and Miller lost her job.
“I wasn’t expecting it and it hit me pretty hard,” she says.
One day over some wine, a friend suggested Miller start her own company. It wasn’t anything she had ever envisioned, but the more she thought about it the more she realized it was an opportunity to do the kind of work that mattered to her. She opened AMM Consulting and developed a portfolio of clients in renewable energy and clean transportation among other passion projects, including the MAS charter school.
“I decided I would do work that fulfills me,” Miller said. With her two children now being UNM graduates themselves, Miller has been reflecting on the meaning of a UNM degree.
“We have trouble taking pride in our state,” Miller says. “What comes to mind when I think of UNM is that idea of — ‘you’re just going to UNM’? I think we have to change that thinking to, ‘no, UNM is a damned good university’. There are really good people teaching here. There are people doing life-changing work here. We have to take more pride.”