Tim Russert Department of Communication and Theatre Arts professor Joseph Miller will retire at the end of this semester after teaching at John Carroll University for 53 years.
Throughout his career, Miller has held a variety of positions at JCU. At one time, he served as adviser to The Carroll News.
“The University was anxious to have someone who knew a little bit about it, and I had worked on the news as an undergraduate student,” Miller said. “As a result, I was able to take the opportunity to step in. I took over the news in 1963 and acted as the adviser until 1980,” he continued. “I had the responsibility for oversight of the news during a time of [the shooting at] Kent State, and [the war in] Vietnam.”
The previous adviser was a Jesuit who left the order and also the University.
“The news was a much different organization,” said Miller. “The control by the University was much different than it is at the present time. I’m happy to say that I had a major role in reducing that influence.”
Miller attended JCU as an undergraduate student. During his time as a student, Miller served in ROTC and worked at The Carroll News.
He described his time at the newspaper as “a never-to-be-forgotten experience.” He added, “I knew nothing about journalism. I started out functioning as the photography editor, about which I knew even less.”
Miller initially started working at the newspaper just to help out a friend, who was an editor.
“I evolved from being the photography editor into other positions as well, largely copy work, copy editing–that sort of thing,” Miller said.
Miller’s connection to the University goes beyond his extensive work within the communications department. His time at JCU overlapped with one of the University’s most well-known students: Tim Russert.
As a professor in the communications department, Miller taught the basic public speaking class Russert was in “when [Russert] showed up,” said Miller.
At JCU, friends and classmates of Russert unsuccessfully tried to convince him to major in communications. Miller recalled the conversation when he advised Russert to pursue studies in the communication field.
“He looked me right in the eye, and he said, ‘Mr. Miller, I have no future in communications,’” Miller said.
Miller returned a similarly ironic comment after Russert arranged for Bruce Springsteen to perform at JCU in 1975. Russert suggested that Miller attend the concert.
“Because he was a friend, I sat in the back for fully ten minutes,” he said.
A day later, Russert asked Miller for his opinion about the performance.
“I said, ‘That guy is going nowhere,’” said Miller.
Miller also described national and international events of the early 1960s and 1970s and the effects seen at JCU.
“There was upheaval within the church and society as a whole. Men and women were leaving religious orders for a variety of reasons and circumstances,” Miller said. “That happened here.”
He described the growing popularity of journalism classes at the time of the Watergate scandal.
“That became a significant draw because of Woodward and Bernstein,” Miller said. “There is a historical dimension. That is, an impact from history that follows in the development of journalism education.”
He described how the coverage of the historical event impacted studies at JCU.
“Then, later on in the 1970s, we picked up and offered a second course, investigative reporting,” Miller said. “And that essentially merged into something more significant and became included in the requirements for the major in communications because we wanted the students who graduated to be sure that they were able to write in a different format.
“Journalism really came of age nationally in the early 1970s, and then at John Carroll a couple of years later after that,” Miller said.
Miller was still the adviser to The Carroll News when the University began accepting female students in the 1960s.
“I appointed the first woman editor to The Carroll News, Sandy Cervenak, in 1968,” Miller said. “That was a trauma for a lot of faculty members who could not imagine how women could do these kinds of things. We think nothing of those kinds of things now.”
Miller has served as department chair of communications, acting dean of the graduate school and associate dean of the College of Arts and Sciences. He also was chair of the physics and philosophy departments at separate times when the University was searching for a full-time chair for each department.
In the 1970s, the University made Miller available to work at the United States Office of Education in Washington, D.C. He worked there for a year before returning to JCU.
While giving feedback in his Business and Professional Speaking class, Miller jokingly warned his students of the problems one could run into when using technology.
“Be careful of death by PowerPoint,” Miller said.
Junior Doug Krochka, a student in Miller’s class, spoke about his professor’s teaching style.
“I love his class. It’s a great environment,” said Krochka. “He definitely knows what he’s talking about.”
The Tim Russert Department of Communication and Theatre Arts will host a reception for Miller on Thursday, May 1 from 4-5:30 p.m. in the atrium of O’Malley Center.