E. Willard Miller

1915 - 2002

E. Willard (Will) Miller, 87, the son of the late Archie H. and Tessie B. Master Miller, Turkey City, Pa, passed away 15 November 15 2002. He married Ruby Skinner (Miller) 27 June 27 1941, who survives.

Will received a B.S. degree from Clarion University of Pennsylvania in 1937; an M.A. from the University of Nebraska in 1939; and a Ph.D. from Ohio State in 1942. He was a long time member of St. John’s United Church of Christ, Boalsburg, where he served on the consistory and financial committees.

E. Willard Miller will be remembered for many things: consummate adventurer, competent administrator, and engaging teacher, but three accomplishments stand out, he helped create the Association of American Geographers out of two rival organizations, he established the nation’s number one department of geography at Penn State, and he founded the Pennsylvania Geographical Society for public school teachers and Teachers Colleges, now Universities.

Will began his teaching career at Case Western University. In 1944, Will and Ruby were recruited as geographers by the Office of Strategic Services in Washington D.C. Will received an award of merit for his services in the war effort. In 1945, Dean Edward Steidle of the College of Earth and Mineral Sciences, Penn State, recruited Will to be a member of the college, as head of the department of geography. In 1964, he was appointed Assistant Dean for Resident Instruction and in 1972 was named Associate Dean for Resident Instruction, a position he held until his retirement in 1980.

An avid explorer, Will conducted research projects in the Arctic and Alaska, Canada and Siberia, and undertook fieldwork in Central and South America as the U.S. representative to the Pan American Institute for Geography and History. Numerous travel grants and invitations supported his research on the mineral resources of the world.

A consummate scholar, Will wrote countless textbooks, bibliographies, and reference books, professional magazines and book chapters. He collaborated with his wife Ruby on more than 100 reference bibliographies. Key publications include The History of the College of Earth and Mineral Sciences, A History of the American Society for Professional Geographers, An Economic Atlas of Pennsylvania, A Social and Economic Atlas of Pennsylvania, and Pennsylvania: A Keystone to Progress. He also was the book editor for the Pennsylvania Academy of Science. Will received the Roy Hughes Whitbeck Award for the outstanding article in the field of economic geography in the Journal of Geography, 1950. In 2001, he received the George Miller Award of the National Council for Geographic Education as Distinguished Mentor for Graduate Level Education.

Will was an institution builder. At the end of World War II, the professional association of geographers, the Association of American Geographers (AAG), of which Will was a member, was research oriented and exclusive. As secretary and then president of the newly established and more inclusive American Society of Professional Geographers (ASPG), in 1948 Will oversaw the creation of a national organization representing all geographers through the amalgamation of the AAG and the ASPG. Concurrently, Will helped build the Department of Geography at Penn State. Will’s goal was nothing less than the creation of a world-class department. Emphasizing economic geography and research, the program expanded into graduate training with the first M.S. awarded in 1948 and the first Ph.D. awarded in 1949. In 1995, the National Research Council ranked Penn State’s Geography program number one in the nation. In 1952, Will founded the Pennsylvania Geographical Society (PGS), and in 1962 served as president of the society, remaining Permanent Counselor until his death. He served in many other professional capacities including Honorary Chair of the 21st Century Fund, National Council for Geographic Education.

Countless awards attest to his contributions to society. He was a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science and the Explorers Club, and received numerous citations for meritorious service to the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania from the Governor, and others. He was the President of the Pennsylvania Academy of Science and received the Distinguished Service Award from the Academy for his contributions. Will and Ruby were awarded the Honorary Alumni award from Penn State, and Will received the Distinguished Alumnus award from Clarion University. Will also received honorary doctorates from Clarion University and the Ohio State University. Professionally, Will received the Honors Award from the AAG, the Lifetime Achievement Award of the PGS, and the Founder’s Award of Penn State’s Department of Geography.

The Millers established fellowships and awards for undergraduate and graduate students at the Clarion, Ohio State, and Pennsylvania State Universities. Will and Ruby also were contributing members of: the College of Earth and Mineral Sciences Obelisk Society; the Mount Nittany and Atherton Societies of Penn State; the Galileo Society (American Geographical Society); and the President’s Club at Penn State and Ohio State Universities. They also belonged to the Centre County Historical Society, Boalsburg Village Conservancy, Centre Community Hospital Auxiliary, and the Boalsburg Heritage Museum. Will is survived by his wife of 61 years, Ruby S. Miller and two nieces Jane Hemmings of Chicago and Bernice Krapf of Myrtle Beach. Burial was in the Mausoleum at the Centre County Memorial Cemetery, State College, Pennsylvania, Rev. Allen Heckman officiated and Koch Funeral Home presided. In lieu of flowers, contributions can be made to the E. Willard (Will) Miller Scholarship Fund, Penn State Development Office, One Old Main, Pennsylvania State University, University Park, Pa. 16802.

Originally published in the Centre Daily Times, 25 November 2002.

Willard E Miller (Necrology). 2003. AAG Newsletter 38(1): 16