College of DuPage board names building for Medal of Honor recipient

  • U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Robert J. Miller

    U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Robert J. Miller

 
 
Updated 9/18/2015 3:34 PM

The Homeland Security Education Center at the College of DuPage will be named for a Medal of Honor recipient from Wheaton who was killed in 2008 during combat in Afghanistan.

The COD board voted 4-2 Thursday to place Staff Sgt. Robert Miller's name on the center, despite a suggestion from two trustees that the school name another building in his honor.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

In the divided decision, trustees discarded a previous board's 2013 resolution to name the Homeland Security Education Center for school President Robert Breuder.

"If we are to honor someone by placing their name on the Homeland Security Education Center, it ought rightly to be someone who has made some contribution to Homeland Security," said Trustee Charles Bernstein, who supported the measure along with fellow trustees Deanne Mazzochi and Frank Napolitano and board Chairwoman Kathy Hamilton.

Miller, a Wheaton North High School graduate, was awarded the Medal of Honor posthumously in 2010 for helping save fellow soldiers while they were under attack by insurgents.

"If any name can inspire generations of COD students, it is that of Robert J. Miller," Bernstein said. "And I would strongly suspect that the alternative would generate no such inspiration."

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But trustees Erin Birt and Dianne McGuire voted against the proclamation -- Trustee Joe Wozniak abstained -- after suggesting that COD's newly constructed Homeland Security Training Center be named for Miller instead.

In order to take Thursday's vote, the board first had to declare Breuder's employment contract with COD void.

That's because Breuder, who has been on paid leave since April, received a $763,000 buyout deal in January that included a provision requiring the education center be named for him upon his retirement.

The board declared the buyout void along with Breuder's contract. However, that's expected to set off a legal fight with Breuder.

So Birt said the board should name the Homeland Security Training Center -- not the education center -- for Miller "so that we can have an appropriate honor without it being complicated by further litigation."

McGuire said the new building, which includes an indoor firing range, is "a beautiful" facility. "It would be very fitting to have his (Miller's) name on that one," she said.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

But Mazzochi said it's more appropriate to have Miller's name on the education center because that's where a Sept. 11 memorial is located.

"Sgt. Miller was killed in Afghanistan," Mazzochi said. "I think that is the appropriate building to have it (his name)."

As part of Thursday's measure, the board directed the COD administration to plan a permanent installation in the building lobby that presents Miller's official citation and President Barack Obama's remarks on awarding him the Medal of Honor.

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