FAIRBORN – Former Supervisor of Music and Director of Choral Activities Director Robert McMillan (Mr. Mac) of the Fairborn City School district was honored with a plaque dedication Monday, in which former students spoke their piece in regards to what his work meant to them. The plaque hangs just outside the choir room.
“I’ve sung in a lot of choirs – college, grad school, conservatory of music – and I will tell you, without a doubt, I never performed harder music in those choirs than I did in Fairborn High School,” FHS Alumna Cary Boyd Criss of the class of 1973 said during the dedication. “That’s really something … How do you say thank you? I was trying to speak for a whole lot of people.”
Under McMillian’s direction, the choirs received 32 superior ratings from the Ohio Music Education Association competitions, and 47 overall superior contest ratings after initially joining the district in 1960.
“There was no fooling around (in choir),” she said. “He walked on that stage, and all attention was on him. We’d go to contests and you just knew how important it was.”
Former choir students were present for the ceremony, including Boyd-Criss, Denise Derge (class of 1971) and Glenn DeBerry (class of 1970), who felt that they carried what they learned under McMillian’s direction with them in future choirs they would participate in. McMillian currently resides in Florida and was unable to make it to the ceremony. However, his brother and sister-in-law Bill and Carolyn McMillian were present.
“I’m very excited about having this and seeing the honor given to him,” Bill McMillian said. “Not only that he gets into the Hall of Honor, but to follow up with his students. I’m talking to a former student right now and I said ‘he was a coach – it was the students who made the choirs good.’ The [student] said ‘yeah, but you need someone to drive the bus.’ It’s wonderful, and I’m really sorry he couldn’t be here to see the presentation.”
The plaque project itself came to be after a Facebook group consisting of choir alumni formed as a means of sharing photos and memories. McMillian was inducted into the school’s Hall of Honor last April, but they felt it wasn’t enough. The plaque’s wording at the bottom quotes “The Impossible Dream” stating “he reached the unreachable star,” after alumni of the choir agreed that the most memorable song they performed was such.
“He inspired everyone,” Boyd-Criss, who just retired as a music teacher, said. “Regardless of if they were in music or not.”
A former project caused some choir alumni to find old reels of the music. Derge and Terry Stockholm, class of 1975, assisted in converting the music from reels and uploading it to a Google Drive for it to be shared. Individuals wishing to access the music can email Derge at [email protected]. Attempts were made to contact McMillian for a comment, but did not receive such in time for publication.