IN DEPTH: WOMEN OF DISTINCTIONMiller sees Kimmel as an integral operationLawyer and interim president of arts center is ready for the challengeby Marla Cimini
According to Leslie Anne Miller, the zenith of her career just happens to be the position she holds today — as interim president of the Kimmel Center for the Performing Arts, which is set to open in December.
“It has truly been an honor for me to be offered this position. It gives me the opportunity to combine all of the skills I’ve learned along the way in a variety of capacities: as a lawyer, as a volunteer and as a committed citizen of Philadelphia. It’s a huge challenge and a huge honor — and I love every minute of it,” she said.
An attorney with McKissock & Hoffman, Miller has been a civil litigator and mediator in Philadelphia for the past 24 years. She serves on several boards, including the Dickinson School of Law, Mount Holyoke College, WHYY Public Television and the Free Library of Philadelphia.
Miller was not expecting to be offered the Kimmel position. She accepted the post on a pro bono basis for six months. “I can honestly say that I would have never seen myself in this position,” she said. “Of course, I always knew that if an opportunity arose in a not-for-profit organization, I would certainly consider it, since I have always enjoyed pro bono work.”
Miller believes the Kimmel Center is one of the “most exciting” things to happen to Philadelphia, and is integral to the city’s renaissance. “It important to the city culturally as well as economically,” she said.
Miller emphasized that the performing arts center will offer “something for everyone.”
“The Kimmel Center will not just be a performing arts center for the elite — it will truly be a community center for all neighborhoods in the Greater Philadelphia region. And having the opportunity to develop that very important part of the mission is such a compelling part of my job,” she said.
Miller has practiced law since 1977, and was the first woman to make partner at LaBrum and Doak in Philadelphia. She is past president of the Pennsylvania Bar Association, and was the first woman to hold that position.
Miller said that women practicing law today are no longer novelties in the profession, although there are still a few cases of blatant discrimination. But she believes there is still progress to be made. She said: “There is still a long way to go in providing women with the flexibility that they need to grow in their profession and still raise a family. Statistics still reflect that women make less than men, and women still find discrimination in terms of work assignments. Much remains the same.”
Miller has served on the boards of Allegheny Health Education and Research Foundation, the Medical College of Philadelphia, St. Christopher’s Hospital for Children and the Pennsylvania Ballet. She has received numerous honors and awards throughout her career.
Phyllis W. Beck, a judge for the Superior Court of Pennsylvania, has been Miller’s colleague for about 20 years. Beck said: “Leslie has a gift of knowing how to be a friend. She has a contagious `can-do’ attitude, and everyone around her easily catches her sense of vision and sense of enthusiasm. Leslie also has a wider vision than just being a practicing lawyer. She cares very much about women being recognized in their careers.”
Miller reassures that, as a precaution after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, the Kimmel Center will have heightened security.
She said: “Security was always a major concern for us, but with the ongoing threat of terrorist attacks and other pranksters, we have had to be much more attuned to that aspect of our operations. The measures that we are taking for security have increased dramatically. We will continue ongoing maintenance of the building, and not just for the gala opening.”
Miller is always thinking about the direction her career will take. “I’m constantly thinking about the future, but I’m better off taking it day by day because my current project is not complete,” she said. “I am not sure how much longer I will be at the Kimmel Center, and that will be determined by the search committee. They need to find the best person for the job. Regardless of their decision, I hope to remain involved with the center in some way — I’m a huge supporter.”