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Lipscomb community remembers student Savannah Miller for her joy, energetic personality

Kim Chaudoin  | 

Savannah Miller

The Lipscomb community is mourning the loss of student Savannah Miller who died Saturday, June 13, following complications related to a medical procedure. 

Known for her spunk and energy, Miller had just completed her first year at Lipscomb University in the IDEAL program, housed in the College of Education.

“It's hard to put into words what Savannah brought to campus. Besides joy and enthusiasm, she was so inclusive,” said Misty Parsley, director of the Master of Education/Special Education program and associate professor in the College of Education. “She loved everyone, remembered everyone's names, and invited everyone to eat lunch with her or hang out with her.” 

Savannah Miller sitting in wheelchair

Miller was a member of Phi Nu.

“She worked hard everyday with struggles most of us will never understand, but she never let those struggles kill her spirit. They just made her work harder,” she continued. “She inspired us to work harder and have a better attitude every day! She will be greatly missed by the IDEAL staff and students, as well as everyone on campus who knew her!”

Miller was known for her outgoing personality and served campus last year in internships with admissions and Student Life, often being seen greeting others at the welcome desk in Bennett. She was a member of Phi Nu and a resident of Johnson Hall. She was well known for her joy, enthusiasm, fierce advocacy for herself and others, and love of Starbucks Frappuccinos and was often seen speeding along sidewalks in her wheelchair heading to class or to meet up with friends. She made fast friends and infused life and energy into every situation. 

“While we are sad and heartbroken, we are rejoicing with the fact she is healed,” said Andrea Pewitt, IDEAL program director. “Savannah is no longer in pain and is dancing with Jesus. Oh what a day it will be when we meet again!”

In an email message to the Lipscomb community, Lipscomb President L. Randolph Lowry said Miller’s impact will continue.

“In moments like this, we struggle for an explanation, we share the sorrow of Savannah’s family and, as a community, we seek to move through our own sense of loss,” wrote Lowry. “For faculty and staff, we are given an opportunity to welcome students into our community and we know it is only for a season. Then, they move on having had a profound impact on us just as we hope we have had an impact on them. Each life that we have an opportunity to change also changes us. For all of us — our time with Savannah was short but her impact on all of us will be long.” 

Savannah Miller at Welcome Desk in Bennett Campus Center

Miller at the Bennett Campus Center welcome desk.

A graduate of Franklin High School in Franklin, Tennessee, Miller aspired to a career in fashion or cosmetology. She often did make up for her friends and was known for her talent. Miller was also very active in the disability community. She played basketball and cheered for ABLE youth. She was crowned Little Miss Wheelchair Tennessee twice and was also a member of Best Buddies

“Savannah was a close friend of mine. I look back on all our memories with so much love, and how she was always so joyful and easygoing through every circumstance. Being her RA, and more importantly, her friend, this past year was a gift. Savannah touched my heart in many ways in which I cannot express,” said Abigail Hardage, a special education major and IDEAL resident assistant. “Her determination was continually inspiring. I will always remember her smile, her laughter, and how we always knew we could count on each other. I love you Savannah and miss you already.”

Each IDEAL student has peer mentors. Madison Zumbrun, a rising senior from Chattanooga, Tennessee, was Miller’s peer mentor this spring. 

“Getting to know Savannah was a huge blessing to me this past semester. She was sweet, sassy and a constant joy to be around! Throughout our time together she told me all about her family and how much they meant to her, especially her nieces and nephews,” said Zumbrun. Savannah’s friends were also very important to her and she had no trouble making them.” 

Savannah Miller with friends in Bison Square

Miller with friends in Bison Square last fall.

“I would always see her hanging out with different people around campus. One thing Savannah and I did together each week was create goals. Some weeks we would have goals such as drinking more water and other weeks it would be to get in The Word every day,” continued Zumbrun. “I loved coming together the next week to talk about how we did. It is always good to have an accountability partner and I loved that we were each other’s! I am so thankful to have had the opportunity to get to know Savannah, she will be greatly missed!”

Rebekah Umbarger, a Class of 2019 disabilities studies major, said, "If it were not for her boldness, her bravery, and her faith I would not be half of the caregiver I am today. It was truly an honor to know and love Savannah and I’m so thankful I got to witness her faith, her killer dance moves, and her joy.”

Arrangements are incomplete at this time. Miller is survived by her mom, Renee Miller; her dad Bill Miller; three siblings, Shayna, Justin and Jacob; and extended family, as well as a host of friends. She was preceded in death by her brother, Garrett. 

When classes resume in the fall, the Lipscomb community will have the opportunity to celebrate Miller’s life through a memorial gathering.The Lipscomb University Counseling Center is available for students and employees as a free resource during this time. Request an appointment at this link.