Denise Miller

Denise Miller SP'89

Networking 101

Alumnae promote St. Kate’s by supporting, mentoring other women.

By Amy Gage

The array of letters behind Mary Evert's and Denise Miller’s last names attests to the two alumnae’s achievements in the field of occupational therapy — and in life.

"Miller, MBA, OT/L — an OT and psychology graduate from St. Kate’s in 1989 — directs the Live Well Senior Program at Glendale Adventist Medical Center in California. She was appointed in May by Governor Jerry Brown to the California Occupational Therapy Board, was named Woman of the Year by the Glendale Latino Association in 2012 and chairs the Commission on the Status of Women in Glendale.

And, she proudly tells anyone who will listen — including Congresswoman Nancy Pelosi — that she is a graduate of “the largest women’s college in the United States.”

Miller credits a good deal of her early success to the advice and friendship of Mary Evert, MBA, OTR/L, ScD (Hon.), who is herself an accomplished leader in the OT field. A past president of the American Occupational Therapy Association and the California Board of Occupational Therapy, Evert served for three years in the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services as an appointee of President Reagan.

She earned a bachelor’s in OT from St. Catherine in 1967, with minors in theology and philosophy (“those courses were required in those days”). She also holds an honorary doctorate from the University. “That probably meant as much to me as anything,” she says.

Absent from Evert’s lengthy résumé, however, is her firm belief in serving as a role model and mentor for women coming along behind her. “I learned to do that very thing at St. Kate’s,” she explains.

Mary Evert

Mary Evert SP'67.

“For the first 10 years of my career, Mary would help me map out the next six to eight years,” recalls Miller, who also credits Evert with teaching her the importance of contributing to the OT field. Evert made sure her protégé was informed about the job market and volunteer leadership opportunities in the profession. Further, as Miller forged her own path, Evert took the time to suggest that she connect with others in the field.

Years later, when Miller received the 2010 Occupational Therapy Association of California Award of Appreciation, she acknowledged Evert from the podium. “I don’t know that Mary recognized that what she was doing all along was mentoring,” Miller says.

Now, 20 years into her career, Miller does her best to provide professional development for younger people in healthcare. She’s created an internship program for public health nurses to learn about community outreach, disease prevention and quality care. “Focusing on wellness is an important aspect of the Centennial Vision for occupational therapy in 2017 and will be an even more important component of healthcare reform,” Miller explains.

The two women credit their education at St. Kate’s for teaching them to network with and support other women. “We learned to get around some of those foibles that can get in the way of women’s relationships,” says Evert. “Rather than being cliquish or catty, we were much more open toward pursuing interesting relationships with other women.”

At one time or another, each has experienced a lesser level of support out in the workforce: “You know women who are part of the sisterhood of networking and those who aren’t,” Miller says. They worry that younger women aren’t taking time for networking, mentoring and giving back. “People seem to just get totally worn out by the daily routines of their lives and all they have to do,” Evert says. And that’s a loss. “At every pivotal point in my career, I have been able to reach out to Mary,” Miller says.

Evert laughs: “That’s something sisters do quite a bit.”