On Leaving Lewis & Clark College, III
This was written primarily for the L&C community in April, 1997.
People always ask Why I have stayed at the college so long.
For me it's always been more a question of
Why should I leave?.
Over the last five or so years, my answer to this question has been that a
good position at TRIMET or METRO might pull me away. That position opened
in March and so I had to follow my inner code.
How could I leave LC after nearly 25 years? My
personal interests have shifted to
transportation in the last several years, almost to the point of
distraction. The new position will pay more and place me in the middle of
traffic simulation, growth management, map-making, etc. The tour of the
department after my interview left me with no doubt.
The ten years I spent teaching here were the best of times. After being
re-hired in 1982 as an administrator I enjoyed moving the college along in
many ways. But the years of teaching spoiled me. It has been difficult to
work in an academic environment, but to not have the freedoms and
responsibilities enjoyed by a faculty member. Helping faculty with
computation has been somewhat rewarding, but not the same as doing your own
research. So now I am going to an environment where I hope that I can
contribute to the solution of serious problems facing our region.
Something deep inside me is calling. In fairness to the college, I must
Timeline of Last 25 Years
These things are recycled from my resume with elaboration.
Note that I both worked in the computer center and taught from 1972 to 1975.
How I came to LC
When nearing graduation from WSU, I was putting together references for the
inevitable job search. My letter to Dick Fields, whom I'd worked for at
Gonzaga, was returned by a phone call. He was working for LC and said that
of course he'd be a reference, but he asked,
Why don't you just come to
work for me?
Well, that was just too easy. So I checked out the college and found it
intriguing. I determined that some courses were being offered in computer
programming, so I considered the possibility that I might eventually work my
way into teaching them. The next call I got from Dick was to tell me that
there was a hitch in the job offer - the position also had to teach the
computer classes half time. So I was on my way. Thanks Dick. I hope you
Computer Center Era, 1972-75
When I came to LC, there was a punch-card IBM 1130 Computer with 8K
words of memory (that's 16K bytes in today's parlance). We had
a single removable disk of 512K Words, or one megabyte. We had
4 or 5 keypunches in the computer center and the registrar's office had one.
We had a card sorter, reproducer, and interpreter. And we had
a dozen or more steel cabinets full of 10's of thousands of cards.
I salvaged some the guts of the old-time equipment when it was
taken out of service (c 1979).
I have several good stories I could tell from this era!
Instructor of Computer Science, also 1972-75
This was a great time at L&C. I wasn't much older than the students I was
teaching and we all worked really hard on programming. The course was taken
by all kinds of majors so it wasn't easy to satisfy the Business majors, Art
majors and Math majors all at once. I let students choose from a list of
assignments each time around, and define their own term project.
Fortunately, Ken Pierce, chair of the Business Department at the time,
thought that it was good for the business majors to NOT be catered to
directly. Thanks Ken.
Timberline Lodge & City of Portland, 1975-76
I thought I was heading for a Canadian marriage and citizenship,
so I dropped my teaching contract. When the Canadian connection fell
through, I found myself at
from May 1975 to February 1976 as an
indoor maintenance man. I was a carpenter, electrician, plumber, domestic
water man, a sewage plant man, and head of the fire crew when on night duty.
In February 1976, I took a job downtown and maintained a waste water run-off
computer model for the city engineer office (a Sewer Analysis Model!).
Back to Teaching, 1976-82
My replacement for the teaching position did not work out well at all.
David Savage called to ask if I would consider coming back. So I worked
half-time, three quarters time, and 5/6th time teaching Computer Science
again. Thanks David.
High points of those years were hosting Buckminster Fuller's 1979 visit to
Lewis & Clark, and volunteering to teach a course in General System
Theory, (Spring 1977) where I challenged 28 or so LC students to design a
self-sufficient colony to get them to cross over the boundaries of their
All total as an Instructor of Computer Science I designed and taught 42
classes; supervised 24 independent studies; and authored
Programming into BASIC featuring
under contract with Benjamin/Cummings publisher.
Follow the link to get the history on the book.
Eventually, the college wanted to legitimize computer science
into a full-time position. Without a terminal degree, I was not
qualified. But the search yielded no one that the committee regarded
higher than me, so, thanks to John Abele, I was awarded the position
anyway, but only for one year, 1981-82.
The next time around, the same thing almost happened again, but Harvey
Shapiro arrived in town just after the deadline (Thanks, Harvey) and
the committee went with him. The rest, shall we say, is history.
The System Manager, root, and Dialectician
So, I was out of work in September, 1982. But as luck would have it (or not
have it), the system manager of the VAX/VMS system we were using left to
work for Tektronix. Dick Fields knew that I already had most of the VMS
skills needed and that I knew the administrative side of things. So he
called again to ask if I would like to be [SYSTEM]. (VMS-ese for system
manager, or root). Naturally. I obliged the College one more time, and
started my non-faculty stay of 15 years. I migrated all academic accounts to
BSD 4.3 Unix on a VAX in 1987 and did other grade and credit conversions for
the undergraduate and law schools.
During one of many organizational experiments (Office of Computing
Services), and in response to a grant that John Abele, Ellen Jean and I
proposed to Apple Computer (Thanks to Jeff Anderson for keeping us on
track), I headed a Software Development Lab that designed the
Electronic Dialectical Notebook
for Susan Kirschner.
Together with Dan Revel as programmer, we won the
EDUCOM Award: National Center for Research to
Improve Postsecondary Teaching and Learning -- Best Curriculum Innovation
in Writing, in November 1988.
Thanks to Randy Collver, I got a year off with some pay in 1988-89.
During that year I mostly forgot about Lewis & Clark College and got
overcommitted to citizen participation. I was president of the Southwest
Portland neighborhood district coalition (SWNI) and chair of the Multnomah County
Citizen Involvement Committee (MCIC). I organized a multi-county citizen
involvement conference. The MCIC produced an impressive report,
County Visions: The 1990's and Beyond.
While on sabbatical, I was introduced to Cynthia Stowell by Karen King and
Ellen Jean. Cynthia and I were married in 1989 before I went back to work for
L&C. Our son 'Gus' was born in 1990.
L&C joined the Internet in 1991, and we also replaced the VAX with a Sun 4/490
running SunOS. We replaced the Sun 4/90 with a Digital Alpha 2100
server running Digital Unix. The 90's saw the explosive growth
of networking on campus, the birth and death of "gopher", and now, the World
Wide Web. In about May of 1994, it was obvious to me that I'd be spending a
good share of my time doing web programming and support, so I converted most anything I had in (ascii) text files or Macintosh documents into HTML for my
Home Page, and I added GIF format to my graphics package so I could render my drawings for the web.
Year 2000 and beyond
I worked for Metro from 1997 to 2010.
After I retired, I learned iOS programming and became an independent iOS Developer, for fun.
BTW - When the staff changed at the college, my miller L&C E-mail address was retired and I can no longer access it.
Likewise my home page at the college ceased to be served, so I set up my own site.
Many links on the web and on paper refer to my lclark.edu/~miller pages, but that's life on the internet. Google can find those pages, and so can you, on their
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