Drew Miller holding award

While he loves maroon and orange, his favorite color is green.

Andrew “Drew” Miller, director of the Brentsville District High School Turf and Grass Management Program, earned Virginia Tech’s Ut Prosim Award for Outstanding Recent Undergraduate Alumni. Ut Prosim, the university’s motto meaning, “That I May Serve,” is one of the university’s highest honors. The award recognizes the outstanding achievements and service of Virginia Tech alumni. Professor and Extension Turfgrass Specialist at Virginia Tech, Dr. Mike Goatley, recommended the PWCS teacher for the prestigious recognition.

“I was very grateful and humbled to even be considered,” said Miller. “Having a personal award from my peers and my professor… the fact that he believed that I was worthy. Truly, just incredible.”

With a red face and humble tone, Miller recalls being surrounded at the event by his past graduates, now attending Virginia Tech in the turf program and following in the footsteps of their former teacher. In fact, many of Miller’s graduates have gone on to programs in various colleges: Ohio State, Penn State, University of Tennessee, Tennessee Tech, Texas Tech, and Western Kentucky, to name a few.

“Bringing awareness is important as kids can see the significance of the role,” recalled Miller. “What is great about our class is that the kids get to manage the fields they play on.”

The first time he heard about a major in grass was from his former high school teacher and current Unity Reed High School Biology teacher, Richard Smith. Presented with the prospect of a career in turf and grass management, Miller was stunned. “There is a major in grass!?” Miller recants, laughing at the memory. “I worked on ball fields all my life and didn’t know it was a job I could have.”

Miller went to Shenandoah University for a semester to play baseball, but shortly transferred to Virginia Tech. He wanted to stay in sports and recalled the conversation with Smith. “My brother was on the grounds crew at Virginia Tech, so I could see an avenue to stay connected to sports.” His first job after graduating from Virginia Tech was working the field for the New York Mets. “I was on the pitching mound and looking around thinking, I guess I made it to the majors in my own way.”

PWCS came calling and after a meeting with Dr. Martin Grimm, director of student activities management, and Dr. Katherine Meints, principal of Brentsville District High, Miller was the new director of the Turf and Grass Management Program. “I saw an opportunity to make a difference in our kids’ lives and it was something I wouldn’t get the opportunity to do on the sports field.”

Miller created the blueprint for programs across the country. What started with four classes has grown to ten full classes and quickly expanded to national and global prominence. The industry has certainly taken notice as Brentsville is not only recognized for excellence going into college but directly coming out of high school. “We got done with the ACC Championship on the [Carolina] Panther’s ground crew and the head guy said, ‘I want to hire every single one right now.’” Drew smiled reflectively, “To this day, one of the greatest compliments I ever got.”

Through the Tiger Turf Talk podcast, Brentsville students have made connections with professional programs such as the Reno Aces, Super Bowl Champions Kansas City Chiefs, and world-renowned Wembley Stadium. “We are in the memory making business. It is our job to provide the opportunity to set the stage for those memories.” Memories and history as senior Liz Rice, who served on the first all-women field crew, will make history again as the first female head intern at the St. Louis City Soccer Club.

But for all the accolades, awards, and firsts, Miller remains focused on his core business. “I want [my students] to leave as better people rather than better students,” Miller stated. “I can teach them anything they need to know to be successful in this industry, but if I can get them to learn how to work with people, deal with certain situations in a professional manner, and really become the next industry leaders in our classroom…” Miller trailed off looking at his classroom walls filled with award posters of his smiling students. “They will change the industry and I want it to be for the better.”

Miller is currently working toward his educational doctorate in Educational Leadership from Liberty University.