Obituary: Ralph Henry Miller

College professor, homestead farmer, ‘grampa,’ powder ski hound

A longtime resident of Claremont, Ralph Henry Miller, 73, died peacefully on April 19 following a long battle with a rare genetic strain of cancer, with his wife, son, and daughter-in-law at his side.

The recent recipient of Claremont Graduate University’s Lifetime Achievement Award for Evaluation “was a humble man of integrity,” his family shared.

A lifelong Californian, Mr. Miller was born in Berkeley and raised on the three generational family homestead ranch near Gustine since 1953, where he helped his father and brother build the family’s ranch house.

He attended Berkeley High School, played clarinet in the marching band and was president of the BHS ski club. He went to UC Davis, where he was a founding chapter member of the Theta Chi fraternity. He graduated with a bachelor’s degree from UC Berkeley in 1967 and earned his master’s degree at San Jose State in 1970.

In the early 1970s Mr. Miller came to Claremont on a full graduate level scholastic scholarship and entered the PhD program in psychology at Claremont Graduate School (now CGU). He was a natural leader, serving as an elected student representative to faculty meetings and as a popular teaching assistant for multiple courses. He was the founding director of the Center for Applied Social Research, where he worked on the first evaluation research projects conducted by faculty and students in the department. His generous endowment of a student fellowship in evaluation assures that new generations of students will benefit from his commitment to data based decision making.

After earning his PhD, Mr. Miller was hired into the Technology and Operations Management Department of the College of Business Administration at California State Polytechnic University, Pomona, where he dedicated his life to improving the department, the college, and the university while instilling lifelong learning skills in his undergraduate and graduate students.

He served as chair of the TOM Department for eight years and was integral in the college’s successful efforts to achieve AACSB accreditation. He was the founding chair of the University Council of Chairs and served in that capacity for three years. He was a founding member of the California State University Production Operations Management Faculty Association, serving as its first president and then as its secretary for more than 15 years.

His service to the students of Cal Poly Pomona was exemplified in his active participation in and contributions to the student advising programs of academic disqualification advisor and the minority student advisor for more than 15 years.

His efforts did not go unnoticed: he received the outstanding faculty award by his department three times, the outstanding advisor award by the College of Business Administration, and the college’s outstanding advisor award, given at the university level. His contributions and recognition extended to his service for the business honorary society, Beta Gamma Sigma, from which he received the organization’s outstanding professor award in 2006. He was also the campus advisor for Delta Sigma Pi, the co-educational international business fraternity for 25 years, was recognized by the group as the outstanding advisor for the western region, and twice recognized as the outstanding advisor for the Pacific coast. The Academic Senate of California State Polytechnic University also awarded him Professor Emeritus status.

Mr. Miller’s daily dedication to his students was especially evident in the classroom, where on occasion he would jump out of a hand-painted bed sheet phone booth, dressed as “Chi-Square Man” to present that specific complex lesson with fervor, patience and his dry sense of humor.

The College of Business Administration requires attendance at the annual commencement ceremony once every other year, but his love for his students was exemplified by his attendance every year. He truly relished celebrating the success of his students. Known outside of academia as “Deacon” or “Dr. Bubba,” he had a reputation for ethics, honesty, integrity and morals, his family shared.

A lifelong outdoorsman, Mr. Miller was on the dive and alpine ski teams in high school and college. His skiing accomplishments were wide ranging: he was a lift attendant, worked in a ski shop, became an instructor and later a ski patrolman. He made it a point to ski every year for 50 years, right up until this past season.

“He collected—as he would put it—ski resorts,” said his best friend, Steve Cumins. Every March at spring break he would plan a trip to a different resort. As a result, he skied every major ski destination in North America west of the Mississippi, as well as resorts in Switzerland, Argentina and Chile. He also went helicopter skiing in Canada and Nevada’s Ruby Mountains. He also made multiple trips to Jackson Hole, Wyoming, where he conquered 100,000 vertical feet in four days.

“Ralph was driven,” Mr. Cumins said. “He would open the chair lift in the morning and plan the day’s final run to be on the last chair at closing time.”

He enjoyed all water sports, from frozen to liquid, from freshwater to salt. As a youngster he went waterskiing at Lake Tahoe. There he enjoyed the calm, early morning glassy conditions and would swim the 20 to 30 feet to the boat through the chilly water, long before wetsuits were common. He learned to make dry starts off the beach and return to the shore without ever being immersed, his family shared.

Mr. Miller was also a skilled hunter who always got his moose, caribou, elk, deer or antelope. He would harvest the meat so it could be cut into steaks, roasts, chops and sausage to be shared with family and friends. On occasion the hides were tanned and antlers mounted.

“Ralph was a normal red-blooded American male who did what many men wish they could say they had done in their lives,” Mr. Cumins added. “We were brothers of other mothers.”

He is survived by his younger sister, Melissa Miller; wife, Nan; children, Lee Kimmel (Erika) and Sarah Kimmel; and the “lights-of-his-life,” his four wonderful grandchildren, Kyla and Toby Speigel, Cameron Kimmel and Michael Rieger; two nephews, Marc and Mitch Miller; and a great-nephew, Russell Miller.

His brother, Martin Miller, predeceased him.

A memorial service will be held Saturday, May 19 from 9:30 to 11:30 a.m. at Claremont School of Theology’s Kresge Chapel, 1325 N. College Ave., Claremont.

In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to the Ralph H. Miller Endowed Fellowship for Evaluation at Claremont Graduate University. To donate online, email todd.mandel@cgu.edu for information. Checks may be mailed to the Ralph H. Miller Endowed Fellowship for Evaluation at Claremont Graduate University, c/o Todd Mandel, 165 E. 10th St., Claremont, CA 91711.

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