When one of their own was murdered less than a year after he walked across the stage to receive his diploma, Kyser Miree’s Vanderbilt friends reacted with shock and grief. And then they got busy working on a way to remember the young man who was known for his keen mind and sense of fun, establishing the Kyser Miree Scholarship at Vanderbilt.
Miree was president of Vanderbilt’s chapter of Sigma Alpha Epsilon fraternity and graduated in 2009 with a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering. A native of Birmingham, Ala., he worked as an engineer for Chevron Corp. in Pascagoula, Miss. He was shot April 16, 2010, during a home invasion of his apartment in Mobile, Ala.
Miree’s Vanderbilt SAE pledge class attended his funeral in Birmingham, along with other SAE alumni and many in the Vanderbilt community. During Rites of Spring a week later, Collin Bird, BS’09, MSF’10, and other SAE alumni launched an effort to create an endowed scholarship to honor Miree.
“We have raised more than the initial $100,000 to move this fund to an endowed scholarship, which we’re told will yield about $5,000 per year for a deserving student,” says Brad Lawrence, BS’09. “Our desire is for this fund to grow and become a true lasting legacy for engineering students in Kyser’s honor. Right now we’re working hard to build awareness and gifts. SAE alums and current members are running in the 2011 Country Music Half-Marathon to raise money in April, which marks the one-year anniversary of Kyser’s death.”
Kyser’s mother, Kathryn, says she was overwhelmed by the wealth of support she experienced when she attended Homecoming last fall. “It really surprised me, the sort of breadth of this participation, especially from kids who are so young,” she says.
“I’m a consultant to charities of all kinds all over the country. What is unusual here is that some of these kids who are contributing are still in school, and many just got out of school. I’ve rarely seen such broad-based participation.
“Kyser thrived at Vanderbilt,” she adds. “I think it would give him a lot of pleasure—and it certainly gives us a lot of pleasure—that this scholarship is going to help many other engineering students chase their dreams like he did.”
On his blog, Kyser Miree’s younger brother, Harry, remembers Kyser’s sense of adventure, illustrated by the approach he brought to building a rocket ship:
“To Kyser, the Vanderbilt Engineering School Senior Design Project was the perfect opportunity to get college credit for his shenanigans. He and his team spent his entire senior year designing the most intricate rocket ship I’ve ever heard of. I checked in with Kyser often that year. He would explain to me the countless late nights and the rigorous chin stroking and head scratching that he had been sinking into this project. You could hear the twinkle in his eye over the phone.
“Launch day came around, and I spoke with him to get the report. ‘Kyser, dude, launch day! How did it go?’
“‘Well, Harry … we got about four seconds of air time, and then the engine blew up and the entire rocket ship disintegrated and left charred rubble everywhere.’”
But for his brother, adds Harry, “it wasn’t about that four seconds of air time followed by a shower of flaming rocket parts. Kyser lived every moment for the design and creation of that rocket ship. Stimulating his mind. Living to simply enjoy the fundamental moments that made up his entire life.”
Funding of the scholarship continues with bequests and pledges. To donate to the Kyser Miree Scholarship, go to www.mireememorial.org.