Richard Wester Miller, Distinguished Professor Emeritus at Canton College, passed away unexpectedly Friday, January 6 at his home in Canton at the age of 93.
Mr. Miller was predeceased by his loving wife of 59 years, Irene Morrison Miller.
He is survived by three daughters, Dr. Karen (Robert) Bromley of Vestal, Cheryl Miller of St. Thomas, US Virgin Islands, and Michele (Thomas) Mele of Queensbury; four grandchildren, Westra (Nathan) Miller- Fenstermacher, Esq. of Washington, DC, Christopher Mele of Troy, Dr. Karen Mele of Pittsburgh, PA, and Hanlon Miller of Boston, MA; a favorite niece, Vicki Schneider of Camillus; a brother-in-law, Raymond Thompson of Owego; and several nieces and nephews.
He will be missed by his SUNY Canton family, including special friends Dine and Joe Kennedy, Peggy Sue Levato, Beth Irvine, best friend Bob Whalen and his family; and his long-time buddies including, Bill Locy, Aloysius Locy, Dave Swanson, and others at 10 a.m coffee.
Richard was predeceased by a brother, Robert Miller; and a sister, Mary Wirth.
Richard had a long, productive and happy life. He was a loving husband and father, a wellrespected teacher, an enthusiastic and loyal benefactor to Canton College, and a friend to many. He left a huge foot-print on the minds and hearts of all who knew him with his tremendous motivation and dedication to productive service, his family, his profession, the college, and community. In many ways his legacy is unmeasured, although the hundreds of tributes paid to him recently reveal the depth of admiration and love for this special man.
Richard was born in Springwater, and graduated from Dansville High School where his mother was a teacher and his father was superintendent of schools. Richard attended RIT and graduated from Alfred University with a Bachelor of Arts, St. Lawrence University with a Master’s degree in Education. He also attended SUNY Oswego for post-graduate work and Utah State University on a National Science Foundation grant. He worked for General Electric in Schenectady for five years before becoming a professor at SUNY Canton in 1946 and later Chairman of the Electrical Engineering Technology Department. At the college, he established the SUNY Canton chapter of the Tau Alpha Pi National Honor Society for Engineering Technology to recognize students who had obtained academic excellence.
In 1975, he was named Outstanding Educator in America and in 1976 he received the SUNY Chancellor’s Award for Excellence in Teaching. As well, his strong teaching and scholarship were evident in a textbook he wrote in 1977, Servo-Mechanisms: Devices and Fundamentals published by Prentice Hall. In 1982, he received the SUNY Canton College Council’s Distinguished Faculty Award, and in 1990 the Council’s Distinguished Citizen Award. Until his recent death, he was an esteemed adviser for 65 years to the Alpha chapter of Theta Gamma Fraternity. He loved all his students and especially his TG “frat boys” and was a stern and principled father figure to many of them, often turning a blind eye to some of their escapades. He helped launch many careers, and returning alumni always made it a point to visit with him. He was an engaging conversationalist and loved hearing about his student’s lives and families. With his razor sharp memory he consistently recalled things they had often forgotten.
Richard retired in 1983 but did not relinquish his love of learning or commitment to Canton College and the Canton community. In 2003, he became the first person in the college’s history to donate $1 million to the SUNY Canton Foundation. The Richard W. Miller Campus Center and Miller Drive are testaments to this donation which inspired other donors. Since then, he gave another $50,000 in honor of his friendship with SUNY President, Joseph Kennedy and his wife, Dine Kennedy and his relationship with others at the college. His total contributions to SUNY Canton and the Richard W. Miller Scholarship Fund for students total over $1.6 million.
He was an active member of the St. Lawrence Free Masons and was to receive the Meritorious Service Award (Red Hat) at this coming summer’s Council of Deliberation Meeting in Syracuse. With unselfish commitment over the years, he mentored many new Masonic members, held many positions including Grand Lecturer, Master, and Chaplain, and chaired several committees for various causes especially the Masonic Charities.
Richard held offices and volunteered with many other organizations including; the St. Lawrence Community Development Program, St. Lawrence Masonic Charities, NYS and St. Lawrence County Snowmobile Associations, St. Lawrence County ATV Association, Canton Rotary Club, Alliance for Municipal Power, Boy Scouts of America, First Presbyterian Church Elder, Foundation Board Member of Canton/Potsdam Hospital, Canton Sportsmen Club, Canton Village Trustee, and many Canton village committees.
As well as his scholarly and community pursuits, Richard was an avid fisherman, hunter, carpenter, gardener, leather tooler, snowmobiler, and ATVer. He built a canoe, several boats, desks, and other furniture. With his curious mind and “can-do” attitude, he could fix just about anything. He travelled to Europe, the Virgin Islands, Canada, California, the Southwest, Texas, Hawaii, and Alaska. He loved technology, used his computer and printer daily, had just purchased and used a new cell phone, and was looking forward to attending the Wester family reunion. He never wanted to leave his beloved Canton and his visits with family were always short and sweet. He was a remarkable person and loyal friend who leaves a huge hole in our hearts and lives. His motivation, drive, dedication, and caring for others are truly an inspiration. In many ways Richard’s legacy to us is immeasurable.
Calling hours are 3-6 p.m. Thursday, January 12 at Lawrence Funeral Home, 21 Park St., Canton, with a service at 10:30 a.m. Friday, January 13 at the First Presbyterian Church, 17 Park St., and a reception to follow at the Richard W. Miller Campus Center at Canton College. Interment will be in Evergreen Cemetery in the spring. In lieu of flowers, the family suggests contributions in Richard’s name to the Canton Neighborhood Center, 5 West St., Canton Methodist Church Food Kitchen, or the Richard W. Miller Scholarship at Canton College.
Condolences may be sent to www.lawrencefuneralhome.org.