Millers establish first 4-H WVU presidential scholarship

By The West Virginia Record | Nov 21, 2006

Paul and Francena Miller

MORGANTOWN -- Dr. Paul A. Miller, West Virginia University's 15th president, attributes the beginning of his successful career to 4-H and a Hancock County WVU Extension agent who introduced him to the idea of attending college.

So Miller and his wife, Francena, felt it was fitting to establish the first WVU Extension presidential scholarship to benefit West Virginia 4-H members. The Paul A. and Francena L. Miller Presidential Scholarship will provide an eligible 4-Her a guaranteed $3,000 a year for four years and marks the largest single scholarship WVU Extension Service has ever received.

"Until I got into 4-H at age 11, I don't think I knew anything about college," said Miller, who now resides in Columbia, Mo., and, at 90 years old, still serves as an adjunct professor in rural sociology at the University of Missouri.

"Paul Miller was president of WVU when I came to the campus as a first-year student," President David C. Hardesty said. "Susan and I have remained in touch with Dr. Miller and Francena over the years. His giving spirit comes as no surprise. The 4-H movement is one of the most important youth development organizations in the United States.

"The Millers' 4-H scholarship will reward a deserving student and help to build the next generation of leadership for our state and nation."

"Our 4-H program teaches leadership and life skills to some 56,000 youth across the state," said Dr. Larry Cote, associate provost and director of WVU Extension Service."We can't thank the Millers enough for touching the lives of our 4-H family by helping students achieve a college degree."

It was Hancock County WVU Extension Agent Walter C. Gumbel who spoke to Miller's parents and "insisted that I become the first of my family line to have that experience. He was first among those who helped my parents and me to understand college attendance as more than an impossible dream," said Miller.

Miller started his college career at Bethany College, but soon longed to follow in Gumbel's footsteps. In 1936, after one year at Bethany, Miller transferred to WVU. Miller had wanted to become a county agent ever since he attended his first 4-H meeting and heard I.B. "Tubby" Boggs, a legendary state 4-H leader, tell the story of Henry A. Wallace of Iowa, who, as a youth, had made great improvements in growing corn.

Miller realized his dream in 1939, when he became an assistant county agent in Ritchie County, despite his fear that he didn't have enough experience in farming.

"J.O. Knapp, state extension director, called me into his office and urged that I go to Ritchie County. The boyhood dream was reborn and I accepted on the spot," he writes in his uncompleted memoirs.

Miller moved to Nicholas County as an agent in 1941. Following military service in World War II, he attended graduate school at Michigan State University and earned his master's and doctorate degrees. After service as Michigan State's first extension rural sociologist, he became director of the Cooperative Extension service and, later, Michigan State's first provost.

Miller's career led him to the WVU presidency in 1962, serving until 1966, when he became the assistant secretary for education in the U.S. Department of Health, Education and Welfare. He has also taught at the University of North Carolina and served as president of the Rochester Institute of Technology for nearly 11 years before returning to teaching and later retirement. He moved to Missouri in 1993 to join members of his family residing there.

Francena, originally from Ithaca, N.Y., earned her bachelor's and master's from Cornell and a doctorate from Penn State, where she taught until moving to WVU as the director of the Home Economics program in 1961.

She moved to the University of Connecticut in 1963 as the dean of the Home Economics program and then served as assistant director and executive director of the American Association of University Women from 1966-1968. She also served as the director of continuing education for women at Queens College in North Carolina.

The Paul A. and Francena L. Miller Presidential Scholarship will be awarded once the scholarship is fully funded. First preference will be given to a 4-H member from Hancock County, where Paul grew up.

Miller said he owes much to the mentors he gained while a 4-Her.

"I don't think I would have ever been inspired to be the student I was in high school if it wasn't for 4-H," he said. "So Francena and I decided to do something of usefulness to other young people of 4-H to come."

The gift was made through the WVU Foundation, a private non-profit corporation that generates and provides support for West Virginia University.

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