Robust leader, bridge-builder, innovative educator, talented orator, kind and fair-minded gentleman—these are just a few of the words used to describe Professor Emeritus and former College of Continuing and Professional Studies (CCAPS) Dean, Harold “Hal” Miller who passed away on February 4, 2022.
The University’s longest serving dean, Miller served for 27 years under presidents Moos, Magrath, Keller, Hasselmo, and Yudof, and was only the fourth dean of CCAPS since the College’s founding in 1913.*
Miller earned his doctorate in speech communications and higher education at the University, and in 1971 became acting dean of the college, which was then called the General Extension Division. The following year he was named full dean and embarked on a now-legendary tenure of dedicated service to the College characterized by an equally legendary reputation as an innovator—a creative, trustworthy, and gracious leader, colleague, and friend.
Known as “the people’s dean” because of his accessibility to students and the larger community, Miller was laser-focused on serving those unable to attend college full-time and worked tirelessly to increase their access to course, degree, and certificate options.
Known as “the people’s dean” because of his accessibility to students and the larger community, Miller was laser focused on serving those unable to attend college full-time, and worked tirelessly to increase their access to course, degree, and certificate options.
One of Miller’s many accomplishments was the merger of University College and the continuing education and extension department into one “resource-sharing umbrella.” The college remains one of the largest of its kind in the country.
When asked about his great success in the role, Miller was quick to credit the work of his colleagues, partners, and staff. “Any achieving a dean does is the result of a lot of other people’s work.” [MN Daily, 9/29/1995]
Evidence of Miller’s dedication to ensure the future vitality of the college remains easy to find, even for those who joined the CCAPS community after his retirement. This includes the Nolte-Miller Scholarship fund. Created in honor of Dean Miller (1972–1998) and Dean Emeritus Julius M. Nolte (1945–1963), the scholarship fund supports “nontraditionally aged students” who take CCAPS classes.
“During his long tenure as dean, Hal Miller oversaw the addition and restructuring of multiple programs in the college, many of which are still thriving today,” notes current CCAPS Dean Bob Stine. “He understood the contributions of the college to the University and created a strong foundation from which we have continued to grow in the 21st century.”
Renowned in higher education circles nationally, Miller served as president of the National University of Continuing Education Association and sat on its board twice. Now called the University Professional and Continuing Education Association (UPCEA), the college remains active in this leading association for professional, continuing, and online education.
Miller’s many contributions and active involvement with the University continued long after he retired. “Hal was an active member of the University of Minnesota Retirees’ Association (UMRA), served on its Board and as its Chair—twice taking on this duty during a transition,” shares former Vice President of University Services Kathleen O’Brien. “Hal has been a valued and respected University citizen and he will be missed by his University friends and colleagues.”
*Note: When first established, the college was referred to as General Extension, then Continuing Education and Extension, then University College, then the College of Continuing Education. The college became CCAPS in 2017.
Reflections from Those Who Knew Him
Robert H. Bruininks
"Hal Miller was an exceptional leader at the University. He had a deep commitment to the University's historic 1862 statewide land grant mission and responsibilities, especially the extension of educational opportunity to nontraditional, part-time learners on the campuses of the University through evening and summer classes.
"Hal was highly collaborative in his leadership in advancing partnerships with the colleges and campuses and the use of advances in technology to increase access to educational and lifelong learning programs. Two of his major efforts led to a significant increase in the use of interactive educational television instruction before widespread use of the internet and the implementation of advanced degrees for adult learners through evening and weekend college programs—all with extensive collaboration of faculty across colleges and campuses.
"Hal was a strong and visionary leader, one who anticipated trends in lifelong learning so prevalent today to improve the abilities of students across the age span. He succeeded in making continuing education a central value of the University in addressing the needs of our State. He was a passionate advocate for advancing the public good through lifelong education."
—Robert H. Bruininks, president and professor emeritus of the University of Minnesota
"During my early years as a secretary in Continuing Education and Extension (CEE), as CCAPS was then called, I had no personal contact with the man I called Dean Miller. Always in a suit and tie, occasionally visible from the dean’s office lobby, he was a distant but mighty figure to me. Along with his two associate deans, Eleanor (Sis) Fenton and Barbara Stuhler, he seemed to reside in a power center located a universe away from my desk on the sweltering third floor of now-razed Wesbrook Hall.
"On a random July day several years later, well after I had been promoted to the position of program director for the Split Rock Arts Program, I got an unexpected phone call. It was Raleigh, Dean Miller’s assistant, saying that he was planning to visit the Split Rock Arts Program, CEE’s summer series of arts workshops held on the University’s Duluth campus. Gulp!
"So it was that late the following week and much to our excitement, the Split Rock staff hosted Dean Miller. It was during that visit that he became Hal to me, an affable, engaged, unpretentious colleague, relaxed and open-hearted in knit sport shirts and khakis.
"Back on campus, we always greeted each other warmly, and he told me again and again how much he had enjoyed his visit. He became a staunch supporter of the Split Rock Arts Program, and when he retired, I missed him. To this day, I remain his fan, happy and proud to have known him."
—Andrea Gilats, cofounder of the Split Rock Arts Program and founder of Online Mentoring for Writers and Encore Transitions
"Working with Hal Miller was a joy. As a recent college graduate in 1972, with a teaching degree in hand, my employment options were limited due to a statewide teacher surplus. Having worked in the office of the then General Extension Division as a student, I came to know Dean Miller. When his executive assistant left her position, I applied for the opening. While my administrative skills were limited to my student work, the job qualifications specified that a college degree could replace years of work experience.
"Hal Miller took a chance on me. We had a wonderful working relationship for over 25 years. Hal was a great leader with vision, passion, and compassion. He was respected locally and nationally in his field. He was a good listener, had a great sense of humor, and he was very humble. Hal never raised his voice. He was patient and respectful.
"One funny incident remains in my mind. Hal used a Dictaphone and had given me a mini cassette tape to transcribe. I accidentally did a 'Rose Mary Woods' and erased the tape instead of rewinding it. Any boss would have had words with his assistant, but since Hal was so kind and a gentleman, and he realized I had made an honest mistake, he just brushed it off and redid the dictation.
"Hal was a man of great faith, and his values were based on his faith and his modest background. His legacy at the University is an impressive one and I am humbled to have known him."
—Raleigh Kaminsky, former Executive Assistant to Dean Hal Miller; former Alumni Relations Director, College of Education and Human Development
"I first met Hal when I was a young professor at the Carlson School. In those years, evening classes and continuing education were the purview of CEE (then Continuing Education and Extension), which he headed. It was my introduction to what was clearly one of Hal's hallmark strengths. He regularly reached out to people in the University to build collaborative relationships that could benefit the nontraditional students that he was committed to serving. He was always a fair and supportive collaborator, and the working relationships he forged were long-lasting.
"He was also an innovator. I always admired that he sought new ways and new partnerships to serve learners through unique University programs. That actually became part of the culture of what is now CCAPS.
"Later, after his career led Hal away from the University, I was privileged to succeed him in 2001 as Dean of what was then named the College of Continuing Education. In being welcomed by continuing education leaders at universities across the country, I quickly learned that everyone knew and respected Hal, and he was viewed as a giant in the profession.
"He was an institution-builder. He held many offices and served as president of the national professional association for university continuing education leaders. He was widely recognized as a significant force in the development of the profession and its core value of helping universities serve the needs of all students."
—Mary Nichols, former Dean of the College of Continuing and Professional Studies
Star Tribune obituary for Harold Allan 'Hal' Miller
Photo of Hal Miller courtesy of University of Minnesota Libraries, University Archives.