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Lifelong educator leaves half of her estate to Cumberlands


Marcia Laird presents a check to Dr. Jim Taylor, president of University of the Cumberlands, to be used toward a scholarship fund in her sister's and brother-in-law's name.

WILLIAMSBURG, Ky. — “I think she was teaching from the time she was born.”

Marcia Laird smiled as she shared the story of her sister Betty Howard Miller and her lifelong love of education. When Miller passed way in July of 2012, Laird—the co-executor of her sister’s estate—discovered that her sister had left a large amount of money to University of the Cumberlands. On Wednesday, May 29, she traveled to Williamsburg to deliver a check and her sister’s legacy.


Betty Howard was born in Garrard County, Ky. in 1939 to farmer Ollie and homemaker Lydia Howard. According to the 1940 U.S. census, Ollie had received a 7th grade education, Lydia only 4th, yet both saw their first-born graduate from Buckeye High School in 1957 and continue on to higher education.

After her graduation Betty went to Cumberland College on scholarship. Today Williamsburg is only perhaps an hour and a half south of Lancaster, but when Betty came there was no interstate 75, and rural Kentucky roads were not easily or quickly traveled. So when her brother dropped her off at the junior college, she stayed until the holiday when he came back to get her. This did not deter her from staying two years and completing her Associate of Arts degree in 1959.

After Cumberland Betty went back to Garrard County and began teaching at Camp Dick Robinson and West Point schools, the latter being one of the last one-room schools in Garrard County. Betty’s father would bring coal and firewood for the pot-bellied stove, and a neighbor would come over on cold mornings and start the fire for her.

Between teaching posts Betty took classes at Eastern State Teachers College and received her Bachelor’s degree in 1963. She taught one year at Versailles Elementary in Woodford County, 22 years in the Buckeye School System and retired from Lancaster Elementary after 30 years of teaching. When she wasn’t teaching at school, Laird shares, she was teaching at church.

“School, church and her husband was her life,” she said.

From the time she became a member of Scotts Fork Christian Church at age 12, Betty taught Sunday school, led youth and adult choirs, directed vacation Bible schools and much more. She continued this teaching trend later in life as a member at Lancaster Christian Church.

She was also highly involved in educational and community organizations, including the Independent Order of Odd Fellows fraternal order, the Rebekah’s. It was through this organization that Betty met her husband Harvey Miller Jr. The Millers were both active in the Odd Fellows organization, Betty serving as Treasurer, Vice Grand and Noble Grand at her local lodge and Harvey as Grand Master of the state of Kentucky. They traveled and spoke at lodges often, sharing a combined love of the organization.

The Millers must also have shared a love of education. Although Harvey Miller did not have an affiliation with University of the Cumberlands, save his wife, he and Betty made their will out together, and both wished to leave half of their estate to the University.

The incredibly generous gift the Millers left will be put in a scholarship fund in both of their names, and preference will be given to students from Garrard County.

Laird, Betty’s youngest sister and also an educator—a band director at a high school in Georgia—spoke proudly of her sister’s accomplishments and love of teaching. As she shared Betty’s story, it seemed to make perfect sense that the legacy she left would be towards education. University of the Cumberlands’ students will live that legacy for years to come.

Located in Williamsburg, Ky., University of the Cumberlands is an institution of regional distinction, which currently offers four undergraduate degrees in more than 40 major fields of study; 10 pre-professional programs; ten graduate degrees distributed over eight areas, including two doctorates and seven master’s degrees; certifications in education; and online programs. For more information visit