Helen Virginia Carter Miller
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Helen Virginia Carter Miller
Helen was the only child of Lucy Niehoff and George W. Carter. Her father was the son of a Cherekee mother who lived with them during her early years. She grew up in Indianapolis and attended Butler University, where she graduated cum laude and as a member of Phi Kappa Phi and Mortar Board. She taught high school English and journalism for two years in an Indianapolis high school. In summers during these and following years she was a nature counselor in girls summer camps in Indiana, Michigan, and Wisconsin. She also was a park naturalist at Turkey Run and McCormicks Creek State Parks in Indiana.
These experiences led her to Cornell University to get a Masters Degree in Botany with a minor in Ethology animal behavior. After graduation she taught biology at Miami University in Oxford, Ohio. During these years she was an active cyclist and began to lead American Youth Hostels tours. In this capacity she led several of their sponsored summer bicycle tours in western North America and to Europe three times.
In pursuit of a more rounded background in science, she began a PhD program in zoology and animal behavior at the University of Wisconsin and spent a summer at the Duke University marine biology lab on the North Carolina coast. Here she met her future husband, Rudy Miller. Together they returned to Cornell where both obtained PhD degrees. Her dissertation was the first inclusive description of the behavior of fishes in the American family Centrachidae, the sunfishes. At this time European scientists were beginning to study the behavior of animals and their subjects were often old world fishes. Because they were extremely interested in the behavior of American sunfish, her dissertation was published in its entirety in the European journal Behaviour.
After a post graduate year in the Netherlands, Rudy got a job in the zoology department at Oklahoma State University. Within a year, Helen also became a zoology faculty member and eventually an associate professor teaching biology. Until she retired, she taught sections of the non-majors General Biology Course, wrote the lab manual for the course, and soon became the course lecture and lab coordinator.
She also taught Field Ornithology, offered in the summer; a course called Human Origins; and Environmental Science. She frequently taught an Elder Hostel course called Oklahoma Birds and extension courses to study birds of the Texas gulf coast and another to study the birds of southern Arizona. She received the OSU Alumni Association and Blue Key Outstanding Teacher Award in 1979.
She was co-founder and first president of the Payne County Chapter of the National Audubon Society and during many years served on their board of directors and held offices such as program, membership, publicity chairman, and secretary. For many years, a stipend or scholarship in her name was offered to an OSU student for summer field research in zoology or botany.
For a time she wrote a column called The Nature Trail for The Stillwater News Press. She wrote and had published articles in Outdoor Oklahoma magazine, Persimmon Hill magazine (a publication of The National Cowboy Hall of Fame and Western Heritage Museum), and in Birders World magazine. She wrote an environmental science text book, Ecology and Environmental Science; How People Changed the Earth that she used it to teach a course at OSU. This book became the inspiration for the book, The Biosphere is a Commons published in 2014.
She loved to travel and visited all 50 states, most of our national parks, 14 European countries, Canada, Mexico, Cuba, New Zealand, and Iceland.
She is survived by her daughter Leslie Miller and her partner Kate Coffee, son Michael Miller and his wife Hideko Miller, her son Mark, his wife Brenda and grandson Mathew, granddaughter Jennifer Dunn and her husband Kevin, and great grandchildren Sydni and Cameron Dunn.
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