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Miller, Joseph Willard, 1906-1979



  • Existence: 1906-1979

Joseph Willard Miller was born in Ottumwa, Iowa on October 6, 1906. He was both a student at Northwestern as well as a member of the University's administration. As an undergraduate, Miller wrote the first Waa-Mu show. Continuing to write and direct the annual show throughout his graduate degrees, Miller was hired as a Freshman Advisor in 1931 and eventually became the Vice President of University Affairs in 1972. Miller died in Evanston in 1979.

Miller was editor of his high school yearbook, The Argus. When he was a senior, Miller decided to put on a school play to raise money for the annual. The play was a huge success, and at the request of the local Kiwanis club Miller wrote and produced plays during his summer vacations from Northwestern, where he studied journalism.

In 1929, as a senior at Northwestern, he and his fraternity roommate, Darrell Ware, created the first coeducational college musical show. Miller and Ware wrote the first Waa-Mu show “Good Morning Glory”, a combined production of the Women's Athletic Association and the Men's Union. Both men's and women's shows had been losing money and Miller solicited $20 from 100 students to finance the first show.

After graduating with a degree in journalism in June 1929, Miller returned to Northwestern in the fall to do graduate work in personnel administration. He continued to direct Waa-Mu shows and in 1931 Dr. Walter Dill Scott, the university's president, offered him a position on the university's staff, as Freshman Advisor and Waa-Mu Director. He became the university's first Director of Student Affairs in 1941. In 1942 Miller joined the Army Air Corps and eventually achieved the rank of captain.

While the Waa-Mu show consumed much of his time each year, Miller also served as a general supervisor for all student activities. He initiated several firsts for Northwestern including, the Placement Office, the Division of Student Finance, the Student Union, Scott Hall, the Scholarship and Loan Office, the University Personnel Board and the Division of Student Affairs. His office handled the financial records of each student organization, served as the University Calendar Office, and planned such events as Homecoming, Commencement, New Student Week and Parents Weekend. While retaining the title of Dean of Special Events and Director of Student Affairs, he served as Associate Dean of Students from 1953-1972 and Vice President of University Affairs from 1972-1975.

Over the years Miller received awards from the university, including the Service Award in 1947 and the Merit Award in 1957 from the Alumni Association and a citation in 1971 from the John Evans Club. Miller's last Waa-Mu show was “Quick Change” in 1975. He retired on August 31, 1975. A reception was held in his honor at the Orrington Hotel on May 18th of that year. He was succeeded by Thomas Roland, a 1951 Northwestern graduate.

Miller died in Evanston on September 19, 1979. Memorial services were held at Northwestern's Alice Millar Chapel on September 28. His funeral was held September 23 in his hometown, Ottumwa, IA.

Found in 2 Collections and/or Records:

Records of the Dean of Special Events, Joe W. Miller (1906-1979)

Identifier: 52/2
Abstract This series is comprised of the General Files maintained by Joe W. Miller, Dean of Special Events, which span the period from 1943 to 1976, although the bulk of the records emanated from the latter part of 1960's and early 1970's. The records are arranged according to three broad categories: General Subject Files, Schools, Departments and Buildings and Student Activities and Organizations.
Dates: 1929-1976

Joseph W. Miller (1906-1979) Papers

Identifier: 52/3
Abstract The Joe Miller Papers are contained in five boxes and span the years 1924-1979. The collection contains biographical information, materials relating to his early life in Ottumwa, Iowa, and two important events in his Northwestern career: the 25th Waa-Mu show in 1956, and Miller's retirement in 1975. Two scrapbooks complete the collection.
Dates: 1924-1979