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A Miami Moment with ... Rod Nimtz

04/18/2013

From the beveled "M" cufflinks to the numerous plaques on his wall, Rod Nimtz is Mr. Miami University. From his first day on campus (moving into Collins Hall Aug. 21, 1977) to an unseasonably cold spring day almost 36 years later, there's nothing about Miami Rod doesn't know. From his nearly six years as a student (first his bachelor's and then his master's, and almost finishing his doctorate), to playing the organ during hockey games at Goggin, he's turned every corner on campus. Now serving as the director of Miami's Voice of America Learning Center in West Chester, today we take a moment with Rod Nimtz.

Rod Nimtz can be found at the keyboard of many Miami and community events.
Rod Nimtz can be found at the keyboard of many Miami and community events.
Q: How did you know Miami was going to be your home and after 35 years, what makes you smile?

It was love at first sight of the red brick. It’s every connection at Miami. It’s been my family. The connections at Miami, the friends that you make, they are all standing friends. It’s those kinds of things where you meet someone for the first time.

Q: You’re now the director of Miami’s Voice of America Learning Center, but where were your other stops along the way?

I started as an undergraduate student. After I finished my master’s, I started working on my Ph.D. and a teaching position on the Middletown campus opened, so I took it. They liked me enough to keep me on there, working part-time in the admission office and eventually became assistant to the executive director, and director of the Artist and Lecture Series. I started working on the VOA project in 1995 and was made the director in July 2008.

Q: Would non-Miami people know your history in Oxford?

I used to be the music director at St. Mary’s in Oxford. I was a Baptist kid playing in a Catholic church. And the story makes the rounds that one of the first preludes I played was the Budweiser theme, which is absolutely true. Because if you slow down the old Bud jingle, it sounds just like a chorale. It is also true that on Ascension Thursday I went in and said to the priest, “What do you want to hear for Communion?” He said, “Up, Up and Away.” So, during communion I slid into a church version of “Up, Up and Away.” I’ve been known to slide in the theme from “Gilligan’s Island” from time to time, too, at some Miami functions – discretely of course – but that was when I was younger.

Q: You’ve seen a lot in your 35 years at Miami, including Phillip Shriver’s presidency. You were even an assistant in his history class! So what is your favorite memory of “Uncle Phil”?

I was his grad assistant at the end of Phillip Shriver’s career as president. We all graduated at one ceremony in Millett in those days. After we got through with the awarding of all the degrees and the commissioning of the ROTC candidates, it came down to the final speech that the president always gives. Somebody started chanting “Uncle Phil,” and soon all of Millett was filled with that sound, and it went on and on. There were 10,000 people in Millett, and as you looked around the hall, and it’s wasn’t just students – it was parents, grandparents, alumni, and faculty.

Q: What now is your most revered memory?

One Alumni Weekend at the Pulley Carillon, I played “Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star” which was actually a neat experience. We were demonstrating the new carillon that weekend, and there was a family there with a delightful little girl, probably eight or nine years of age, who I believe had Down’s Syndrome. And so I asked her, “What songs do you know?’” Her mother said, “Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star.” I started to play a few notes and she kind of perked up. I continued playing and she started singing along – the first vocal soloist with Miami’s new carillon, with a clear, child’s voice, and a small but very appreciative audience. That’s a Miami moment. Still to this day, I can remember it but can’t do it without tearing up a bit. Those are the kind of moments you just can’t pass up.

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