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Herbert Miller remembered as an ambassador for IU Kokomo

Faculty Apr 12, 2023
Black and white portrait of a man with the words Dr. Herbert Cleo Miller on a black banner
Black and white portrait of a man with the words Dr. Herbert Cleo Miller on a black banner

KOKOMO, Ind. — “All roads lead to Kokomo.”

Dr. Herbert Miller, Indiana University Kokomo professor emeritus, often said these words, underscoring his belief that travel, especially overseas, is a key component in education.

“The idea is to get more people out into the world,” he said in 2016, when he established the Dr. Herbert C. and Lillian M. Miller International Travel Scholarship.

“I want them to meet other people and see other places. When you get out of wherever you are, you learn more about yourself and the world around you. The world is getting smaller and smaller, and students need to be ready to be part of it.” 

Miller, the campus’s first full-time Black faculty member, passed away April 2, 2023 after a brief illness. He was 93.

“Dr. Miller was a beloved teacher, a leader, and a longtime friend of IU Kokomo—a shining star of our campus,” said Chancellor Mark Canada. “He leaves a tremendous legacy.”

A memorial service will be held on campus at 3 p.m. Friday, April 14 in Kresge Auditorium, followed by a 5 p.m. reception. Funeral services are at 11 a.m. Saturday, April 15 at Wayman Chapel AME Church, 920 North Apperson Way, Kokomo, with visitation starting at 9 a.m.

Education always played an important role in Miller’s life. He told stories of riding a bus from the southeast side of Indianapolis across town to Crispus Attucks High School, the only high school available to Black students in the city.

A $50 loan from his chiropractor uncle allowed him to enroll at Butler University, where he was one of 11 Black students in his freshman class. After earning a degree in European languages, he enlisted in the U.S. Air Force, where he received more training in Russian and Romanian languages. He also worked as an interpreter for the Air Force Intelligence Service in Germany and Austria.

In his lifetime, he mastered nine languages.

Upon his return from Europe, he enrolled in graduate studies at IU. From that springboard, Miller went on to an illustrious career in higher education, teaching for more than 40 years at IU Kokomo, starting in 1960. He also served as dean of faculty, assistant dean of academic affairs, acting chancellor, chief executive officer, dean of faculties, and special assistant to the chancellor. He taught multiple foreign languages, and later led international business classes. 

Miller and his wife, Lillian, were known as excellent hosts for newcomers to the community, teaching them American and Hoosier customs. Lillian (Fisher) Miller, who had been his high school sweetheart, was his travel companion, and was known for serving delicious Russian meals to his students. They were married 56 years, until her death in 2014.

He continued to support international travel after his retirement, giving more than $99,000 in contributions to the campus.

Miller received many honors and awards for his teaching, leadership, and generosity. He received IU Kokomo’s Chancellor’s Medallion in June 2016 to honor his exceptional service to the campus and was inducted into the Howard County Hall of Legends in August 2016.

He also received the Sagamore of the Wabash from former governor Frank O’Bannon in 2000 –  the highest honor Indiana’s governor may give. Additional recognition included IU Kokomo’s Distinguished Service Award in 1993, an IU Honorary Doctor of Humane Letters in 2002, and a Kokomo Hometown Hero award in 2005.

His family noted that Miller appreciated being recognized, but that’s not why he gave — he was always there to help a friend or family member.

He was also active in numerous civic and community organizations, including the Rotary Club of Kokomo, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), and the Kokomo-Howard County Chamber of Commerce.

Miller’s family has requested that in lieu of flowers, contributions may be made to the Dr. Herbert C. and Lillian M. Miller International Travel Scholarship (0370012373), IU Foundation, P.O. Box 6460, Indianapolis, IN 46206. All gifts will support international travel at IU Kokomo. Gifts may also be made at

Education is KEY at Indiana University Kokomo.

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