Former WVU-P president Eldon Miller dies at 77

PARKERSBURG – Eldon Leon Miller, a former president of West Virginia University at Parkersburg, died Friday in Florida at the age of 77.

A native of Gettysburg, Ohio, Miller was known to many Mid-Ohio Valley residents for his work as president of WVU-P for 18 years, retiring in 2000.

“It’s a sad loss,” said Connie Dziagwa, a retired administrator at WVU-P who spent 32 years at the college, including all of Miller’s administration.

She described Miller as an innovator in the field of community college education locally, around West Virginia and across the country. It was Miller’s goal to expand the then-Parkersburg Community College beyond its two-year degree program and begin offering four-year bachelor degrees beginning in 1991, something few community colleges offered at that time.

Miller was instrumental in PCC developing its relationship with West Virginia University and becoming a regional campus of the university as WVU-P.

“He helped change what being a community college meant,” she said.

Dziagwa said Miller was active in the community, serving as chairman for organizations like the United Way and the Greater Parkersburg Chamber of Commerce.

“Eldon was a very close friend of mine,” said George Kellenberger, former president of the chamber. “When I was with the chamber, we worked very closely together.

Miller received his B.S. Degree at Manchester College, M.A. Degree at Miami University, and Ph.D. at New Mexico State. He taught and coached at Gettysburg, Westmont and Greenville schools and was the Dean of Students at Mountain View College in Dallas, Texas, and professor in the Ph.D. Program at the University of Colorado.

He was instrumental in helping with the setup of community colleges on Indian reservations and was involved in the American Council on Education and Council on Indian Affairs in Washington, D.C.

“He had been sick off and on for a while, but his death truly came as a shock,” Kellenberger said Monday. “He was a great man who will be missed.”

Steve Nicely, retired director of the Greater Parkersburg Convention and Visitors Bureau, said he worked with Miller in various programs and activities over the years and was impressed with his focus and his attention when he dealt with people of all types.

Nicely said Miller was always looking for ways to make things better and to make a difference and “that was very impressive to me.”

“I know it’s said about a lot of people, but with Eldon I think it’s true: Parkersburg is a better place because of him,” Nicely said.

“Dr. Miller was a great president and contributed significantly to the growth and success of WVU-Parkersburg,” Katie Wootton, WVU-P’s director of marketing and communications, said Monday on behalf of the college while President Marie Foster Gnage was traveling.

“He remained involved and invested in the college, both personally and financially, even long after his presidency. We are so grateful that he is a part of our history. He is remembered with the Miller Plaza in front of our main campus, which was named in his honor as we celebrated our 50th anniversary” in 2011, Wootton said.

Miller’s funeral service will be 2 p.m. Friday at Zechar Bailey Funeral Home in Greenville, Ohio. Burial will follow in Gettysburg Cemetery in Gettysburg, Ohio. The family will receive friends on Thursday from 5-7 p.m. at the funeral home.

Memorial contributions may be made to West Virginia University at Parkersburg Foundation, 300 Campus Drive, Parkersburg, WV 26104.