Dr. George H. Miller, age 92, of Ripon, WI, passed away on Monday, Aug. 15, 2011, at his home in Ripon. George was born Aug. 5, 1919, the son of Donald and Janet (Hall) Miller.
A native of Evanston, Ill., George H. Miller completed his undergraduate work at the University of Michigan in the summer of 1941. George served with the Army 41st Division throughout the Pacific Theatre during World War II, and was awarded the Purple Heart. After the war, he earned a master’s degree from Harvard and returned to Ann Arbor to complete his PH.D. He taught at Michigan for three years. George then taught history at Ripon College for 27 years, beginning in 1954 and continuing until his retirement in 1981. During his tenure at Ripon, he was appointed the first Ralph Hale Ruppert Distinguished Professor of American History, Principles and Traditions in 1975. In 1988, he established the George H. Miller Scholarship at Ripon College. He was also a charter member of the Ripon College Benefactors and Partner in the Legacy.
George was a combination of scholar, historian and teacher. The chief product of his scholarship, his book, Railroads and the Granger Laws, won widespread critical acclaim, with the prestigious American Historical Review declaring it to be “…an excellent example of the solid, specialized, painstaking, straightforward, perceptive monograph upon which general works in American History should be based.” He received the College’s Severy Award in 1961 and Uhrig Award in 1963, both for excellence in teaching. He received an honorary degree from Ripon College in 1985 and was the recipient of the College’s Founders Day Award in 1996. He earned the 1995 Ripon Area Chamber of Commerce Community Service Award and in 1999, he was named Ripon Commonwealth Press Person of the Year.
During George’s tenure at Ripon College, there was a steadiness of performance which grew over the years to a breadth of wisdom, a balanced perception, knowledge of institutional needs and abilities, and a realistic appraisal of what can and should be done which has made George Miller one of the most valuable members of the faculty. His value to the institution was much more than his exceptionally reliable teaching. It was more than his mature and scholarly command of his field of expertise or more than all the additional areas of knowledge and abilities that George brought to his role as faculty member, such as his knowledge of and involvement in Wisconsin and local history. In addition to all these qualities, George brought good sense to the Ripon College campus. When colleagues wanted a sensible, open minded proposal or response to a proposal or wanted a sane, unbiased, informed evaluation they called on George.
As a staunch advocate of historic preservation, following his retirement in 1981, he continued to devote countless hours at the Ripon Historical Society, researching, writing and organizing historical projects for Ripon, including the 150th anniversary of the founding of Ceresco, the first settlement which later merged with Ripon. George served on Ripon’s Historic Preservation Commission and was later selected as the commissioner’s Person of the Year for historic preservation for 2010.
As past president and board member of the Ripon and state historical societies, George Miller was well recognized for co-authoring Ripon College: A History in 1990 and collating and editing A History of Ripon written by Sam Pedrick in 1964. Those two books stand as solid reflections of the historical context of the city and the College.
George served on the Green Lake Festival of Music board of directors and the Ripon Area Chamber of Commerce’s Little White Schoolhouse committee. He spearheaded the nomination process to have Ripon College and the southwest residential district designated a state historical district and placed on the National Register of Historical Places. He was a member of the Historic Preservation Commission for the city of Ripon, served as president on the board of directors for the State Historical Society, Ripon Historical Society and the board of Wisconsin History Foundation.
Survivors include three nephews, Hank Deaver of Wilmette, Ill., Bob Deaver of St. Louis, Mo. and Jim Deaver of Washington TWP, N.J.; seven grand nieces and nephews. George was preceded in death by his parents and sister, Jane Miller Deaver in November of 1999.
A memorial service for George H. Miller will be held on Thursday, Aug. 25, at 3 p.m. at First Congregational Church of Ripon – U.C.C., 220 Ransom St. Ripon, WI 54971. The Rev. Greg Smith will officiate. Memorials may be made in Dr. George H. Miller’s name to Ripon College, P.O. Box 248, Ripon, WI 54971 or Ripon Historical Society, 508 Watson St., Ripon, WI 54971.
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