The Department of Construction Management at Colorado State University has a newly created scholarship endowment, with the first award to be made next year. Todd Miller (’84) and Donna Kirkpatrick established the Miller/Kirkpatrick Family Scholarship to provide assistance to undergraduate or graduate students in construction management, who are pursuing a career associated with commercial construction.
Miller, originally from Westerville, Ohio, attended college at Bowling Green State University, receiving a Bachelor of Science degree in Industrial Education in 1980. Realizing he liked the technical aspects of industrial education more so than the teaching aspects, Miller wanted to pursue a curriculum that was challenging and technical while also wanting to live somewhere new and exciting. After researching schools and making a brief visit to Fort Collins, he decided that the Construction Management Program at CSU was exactly what he was looking for, even though he had zero construction experience before entering the program. He came west in 1981 to begin classes, receiving his Master of Science in industrial sciences in 1984.
Meanwhile, Kirkpatrick grew up in Clearwater, Florida, graduating from Florida State University in 1980, with a degree in social work. They met in Orlando and got married in 1987 after Miller moved to Florida to take a construction position onsite at a wastewater treatment project. This was the first of several moves to pursue construction experience.
Miller and Kirkpatrick have three children who all graduated from Florida State University. The eldest, along with her husband, received their masters’ degrees at CSU in 2015 and 2016 respectively. The second daughter’s spouse also received his degree in engineering at CSU in 2016.
Time in higher education and construction management
From the time Miller started his first construction internship at Rawhide Power Plant in Wellington, Colorado, he has worked in all aspects of the commercial/industrial construction industry. He worked as an architect’s representative on several State Farm Regional Office projects around the country, and as an owner’s representative on the Universal Studios Theme Park in Orlando, Florida.
In the area of construction, Miller has worked as a scheduler, estimator, project engineer, project manager and, finishing the final fifteen years of his career, as an operations manager with Ajax Building Corporation in Tallahassee, Florida. At Ajax, Miller managed many public construction management projects for the State of Florida, several universities, K-12 schools, correctional facilities, courthouses, and hospitals.
In making the decision to establish a scholarship in order to give back, Miller’s and Kirkpatrick’s fathers were the motivation. Miller’s father grew up in foster homes and entered the US Navy at the age of seventeen. He obtained a GED and worked in a magazine factory after WWII. There he became involved as a labor union representative and later went on to be a federal mediator.
Kirkpatrick’s father and his seven siblings were raised by his mother in Clearwater, Florida. After high school and service in WWII, her parents purchased some land in Clearwater and literally built a trailer park with their own hands, while creating a home for Kirkpatrick and her three siblings. Here they successfully ran the trailer park business for over 60 years.
Miller and Kirkpatrick witnessed first-hand how a solid work ethic and desire can provide for successful careers. They are very grateful for their hard-working parents who emphasized higher education and enabled them to pursue their dreams which started with their college experiences. They are now looking to provide a scholarship to students to assist getting started with a career in commercial construction, which has been so satisfying and positive for each of them.
The scholarship goal is to provide assistance to either an undergraduate or graduate student in the Department of Construction Management, who is pursuing a career associated with commercial construction. Preference would be given to a first-generation student who displays strong character, good citizenship, and a potential for leadership.
Miller offers this advice to individuals who want a rewarding and successful career in construction management, “They need to excel in organizational and communication skills, both written and verbal. Technical knowledge and computer skills are obviously essential for success in today’s market, but when it comes to being a key contributor on a really successful project, clear communication, preparation, and teamwork are even more important to the complex projects faced in today’s industry.”