Arthur Miller (1915-2005) was arguably the greatest American playwright of the 20th century. His highly regarded work often combined contemporary social issues with a probing curiosity as to his characters’ inner lives. Miller, who was shaped by the Great Depression, is best known for his 1949 play 'Death of a Salesman.' Considered a modern classic as well as an instant commercial success, the play depicts the tragedy of Willy Loman, a man destroyed by false values that are in large part the values of his society. Miller received a Tony Award, Pulitzer Prize, and the New York Drama Circle Critics’ Award for the piece. In total, Miller penned more than two dozen plays during his career, including 'The Crucible.' Based on the Salem witchcraft trials of the 17th century, the play serves as an echo of the effects of McCarthyism on the society of his day. For his groundbreaking work, Miller won many awards during his lifetime. In the 1990s, Miller received the National Medal of Arts and PEN/Laura Pels International Foundation for Theater Award for being the best American dramatist.
After graduating high school, Miller worked several menial jobs to save enough money to attend the University of Michigan. It was during this time that the budding author started to learn his craft. While in college, Miller first majored in journalism and worked for the student newspaper The Michigan Daily as well as the satirical Gargoyle Humor Magazine. Later, Miller switched his major to English and subsequently won the Avery Hopwood Award for a play he'd written as a student, 'No Villain.' The award brought him his first recognition and led him to begin to consider a career as a playwright. Additionally, he enrolled in a playwriting seminar taught by the influential Professor Kenneth Rowe, who instructed Miller during his early forays into writing for the stage. Besides offering much-needed encouragement and feedback, Rowe became one of Miller's lifelong friends. In 1938, Miller graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in English and was ready to strike out on his own as a creative force.
No matter how famous he became, Miller retained strong ties to his alma mater throughout the rest of his life. For starters, he was a frequent visitor to campus, meeting with students and conducting writing workshops. While Miller is decidedly less known for his work as a magazine writer, he also penned a lengthy essay for the December 1953 issue of Holiday magazine titled “University of Michigan by Arthur Miller.” The piece details the writer’s enduring affection for his alma mater. Three years later, the University awarded Miller an honorary degree. Later, the playwright would return the favor by establishing the University's Arthur Miller Award in 1985 and the Arthur Miller Award for Dramatic Writing in 1999. More recently, the University celebrated one of its most distinguished alumni with the creation of the Arthur Miller Theatre. As per the renowned playwright's express wish, it is the only theatre in the world that bears his name.