Pacific Remembers Former President James V. Miller

Former Pacific University President Rev. James V. Miller died Thursday, Nov. 4, 2021, at the age of 101.

Rev. Miller, who was a member of the Oregon-Idaho Conference of the United Methodist Church, served as president of Pacific University from 1970 to 1983. His career also took him to Bates College and Otterbein College prior to his retirement in 1985.

Miller’s tenure at Pacific was marked by improved academic standing, as well as fiscal responsibility, according to Splendid Audacity, the history of Pacific University,

While the College of Optometry was already well established — and in large part bolstering the university’s finances — Miller’s leadership ushered in the foundations of what would become Pacific’s growing graduate and professional programs in other healthcare fields.

The physical therapy program launched in 1975, followed by the professional psychology program in 1979. Planning for an occupational therapy program took place throughout the 1970s, though the program didn’t open until 1984, shortly after Miller’s departure from Pacific.

At the same time, Pacific’s liberal arts programs were growing in their academic reputation. The GPA of incoming undergraduates rose from 2.6 to 3.2 between 1977 and 1980, enrollment grew to 1,200, and 60% of College of Arts & Sciences faculty held doctorates by 1980 — up from 25% in 1950.

Amid the rapid inflation of the ‘70s, the diversification of Pacific’s programs, along with increased donor engagement, brought financial security to the university. A grant from the Murdock Charitable Trust supported the construction of Murdock Hall, which remains part of Pacific’s science complex, and the university’s endowment hit $5 million (a significant milestone at the time, though today Pacific is approaching its goal of $100 million).

Perhaps one of the more memorable moments of Miller’s Pacific years was the Marsh Hall fire, which gutted the administration building, destroying an entire class worth of admissions applications, among countless other records. Pacific persisted, though, raising funds to rebuild the iconic campus building — and continue recruiting and serving students.

Miller continued to support Pacific University well after his tenure as president, with annual contributions to the Pacific Excellence Fund, various memorial funds, and the construction of the Taylor-Meade Performing Arts Center.

"I cherished my communication with him and especially looked forward to our annual Christmas card exchange,” said current Pacific President Lesley Hallick. “I appreciated his well wishes when I came to Pacific."

Miller’s legacy lives on today in a Pacific University that offers a comprehensive collection of undergraduate, graduate and professional programs in the liberal arts and sciences, business, education, health professions and optometry — and that celebrates the scholarly works of expert faculty as the No. 1 private research university in the Pacific Northwest.

Rev. Miller was preceded in death by his wife, Millie, in 2011. He is survived by his children, Rachel Reeder and Lyn Neely; two grandchildren; and two great-grandchildren.

Wednesday, Dec. 8, 2021