Geographic Connection to Pennsylvania: Turkey City, Clarion County
Miller was a professor of geography at Penn State and the author of books such as A Geography of Pennsylvania.
Geographer and professor Will Miller was born in 1915 in Clarion County, Pennsylvania. After earning degrees at Clarion, Nebraska, and Ohio State, and serving in the Office of Strategic Services, Miller took a post at Penn State University. Here, he formed the Department of Geography, and shaped the professional organizations for geographers. Though he retired in 1980, he wrote and taught for another 20 years. Will Miller died in 2002 in State College.
Future geographer Eugene Willard Miller was born on May 17, 1915, in the small town of Turkey City, Pennsylvania, in western Clarion County. He was the younger of two sons born to Archie Miller, an oil company engineer, and Tessie B. Master Miller. After graduating from high school, “Will” Miller enrolled at Clarion State Teachers College (now Clarion University). He would graduate from Clarion in 1937 inspired by Professor Clarence L. Dow to embark on a career in geography.
During his junior year at Clarion, Miller met his future wife and collaborator, Ruby. The would marry on June 27, 1941, following his return from the University of Nebraska at Lincoln with his Masters degree, and after two years of graduate work at The Ohio State University. Will and Ruby Miller moved to the Cleveland area after his appointment as an assistant professor at Western Reserve University (now Case Western Reserve University). Both Millers were recruited by the OSS (Office of Strategic Services, a forerunner of the CIA) and served the national war effort. Miller was awarded the Certificate of Merit after the war.
As an academic, much writing was expected of Miller. Even by that standard, however, Miller was a prolific writer. In 1943, for example, he had a phenomenal seven publications. He would go on to produce dozens more during his tenure at Pennsylvania State University, beginning in 1945. One might think that the burdens of creating the Department of Geography at Penn State and helping to found the American Society of Professional Geographers and then leading the merger of that organization with the much older Association of American Geographers would have hampered Miller’s writing. Such was not the case. Over his career he wrote some 90 scholarly articles, 45 books, and, with the help of his wife Ruby, Maps Librarian at Penn State, 40 reference bibliographies. His work was widely hailed and respected. In 1950, he was given the Ray Hughes Whitbeck Award, for the outstanding article in the Journal of Geography. A number of career awards would also be given to Miller from the Pennsylvania Department of Commerce (1975), the Pennsylvania Governor’s Office (1975), the Pennsylvania Academy of Science (1985), and the Association of American Geographers (1989).
While Miller officially retired from Penn State in 1980, he continued writing and teaching his beloved “Geography of Pennsylvania” course until 2000. He passed away on November 15, 2002, in State College, followed by his wife less than a year later. Both Ohio State and Penn State give awards in Miller’s memory to outstanding geographers at those institutions.
Careers in Geography. Chicago: Institute for Research, 1948.
A Geography of Manufacturing. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall, 1962.
Exploring Earth Environments: A World Geography. (with George Langdon) New York: Thomas Y. Crowell, 1964.
Socioeconomic Patterns of Pennsylvania: An Atlas. Harrisburg: Bureau of Management Services, Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, 1975.
Industrial Location and Planning: Theory, Models and Factors of Localization, a Bibliography. (with R. M. Miller) Monticello, IL: Vance Bibliographies, 1984.
Physical Geography: Earth Systems and Human Interactions. Columbus, OH: C. E. Merrill, 1985.
Pennsylvania: Keystone to Progress. Northridge, CA: Windsor Publications, 1986.
Doing Business In and With Latin America. (with R. M. Miller) Phoenix: Gryx Press, 1987.
Ecology and Restoration of the Delaware River Basin. (editor with Majumdar and L. E. Sage) Easton: PA: Pennsylvania Academy of Science, 1988.
Contemporary World Issues: Environmental Hazards, Radioactive Materials, and Wastes. (with R. M. Miller) Santa Barbara, CA: ABC-Clio, 1990.
A Geography of Pennsylvania. (editor) University Park: Pennsylvania State UP, 1995.
Indoor Pollution: A Reference Handbook. (with R. M. Miller) Santa Barbara, CA: ABC-Clio, 1998.