The evolution of West Virginia University at Parkersburg from a two-year community college to an institution offering several four-year baccalaureate degree programs has made it an invaluable cornerstone of the Mid-Ohio Valley.
For years, first as Parkersburg Community College, it provided a low-cost college foundation that allowed people to complete their first two years here without leaving the area, provided training-and, in many cases, retraining- for local industry and allowed students to begin earning a paycheck in some fields in a matter of months.
As WVU-P, it still offers these options but now allows students to spend their entire college career at the Wood County campus and leave with a bachelor's degree in one of several disciplines.
The man responsible for much of the school's transition was its forward-thinking president for 18 years, Eldon Miller.
Miller, who died last Friday in Florida at the age of 77, was president of the college from 1982 until his retirement in 2000. Under his leadership, the school began offering four-year degrees in 1991. Miller "helped change what being a community college meant," retired WVU-P administrator Connie Dziagwa told the newspaper. She said Miller's successful goal was to expand the school's degree offerings, while retaining the non-traditional programs associated with the mission of a community college.
What this has meant to residents of our area really cannot be measured. Because of this expansion, many people who otherwise would for whatever reason not been able to travel to attend a four-year college, have been able to receive a degree while still living at home.
We are saddened to learn of Miller's passing and send our sympathies to his family. Miller last visited the campus in 2011 during the school's 50th anniversary where he helped dedicate Miller Plaza, an area in front of the main campus named in his honor. It is fitting his name is displayed in such a prominent place on the campus.
"I know it's said about a lot of people," said Miller friend and retired director of the Greater Parkersburg Convention and Visitors Bureau Steve Nicely, "but with Eldon I think it's true: Parkersburg is a better place because of him."