About Will and Ruby Miller, Founders of the Department of Geography at Penn State
"Will" Miller was a Professor of Geography, department head, and associate dean emeritus in the College of Earth and Mineral Sciences. Ruby Miller, a teacher, artist and geographer herself, was married to Will Miller, and built the department's map collection which laid the groundwork for the Hamer Maps Library. They were partners in creating the Department of Geography at Penn State.
Will began his teaching career at Case Western University. In 1944, he and Ruby were recruited as geographers by the Office of Strategic Services in Washington D.C. Will received an award of merit for his services in the war effort.
In 1945, Dean Edward Steidle of the College of Earth and Mineral Sciences, Penn State, recruited Will to be a member of the college, as head of the department of geography. In 1964, he was appointed assistant dean for resident instruction and in 1972 was named associate dean for resident instruction, a position he held until his retirement in 1980.
An avid explorer, Will conducted research projects in the Arctic and Alaska, Canada and Siberia, and undertook fieldwork in Central and South America as the U.S. representative to the Pan American Institute for Geography and History. Numerous travel grants and invitations supported his research on the mineral resources of the world.
A consummate scholar, Will wrote countless textbooks, bibliographies, and reference books, professional magazines and book chapters. He collaborated with his wife Ruby on more than 100 reference bibliographies. Key publications include:
- The History of the College of Earth and Mineral Sciences,
- A History of the American Society for Professional Geographers,
- An Economic Atlas of Pennsylvania,
- A Social and Economic Atlas of Pennsylvania, and
- Pennsylvania: A Keystone to Progress.
He also was the book editor for the Pennsylvania Academy of Science. Will received the Roy Hughes Whitbeck Award for the outstanding article in the field of economic geography in the Journal of Geography, 1950. In 2001, he received the George Miller Award of the National Council for Geographic Education as Distinguished Mentor for Graduate Level Education.
In building the Department of Geography at Penn State, Will’s goal was nothing less than the creation of a world-class department.
Emphasizing economic geography and research, the program expanded into graduate training with the first M.S. awarded in 1948 and the first Ph.D. awarded in 1949. In 1995, the National Research Council ranked Penn State’s Geography program number one in the nation. (AAG, E. Willard Miller tribute, 2002).