It is with deep sadness that the department reports the death of Associate Professor Roger Miller from medical complications due to a motorcylce accident he experienced in mid-May. A "Celebration of Roger Miller's Life" will be held on Sunday, September 19, 2010 from 1:30pm to 4:00pm at the Weisman Art Museum, here on the Twin Cities Campus. Please join us.
Below are memories of Roger from various friends and colleagues. If you would like to contribute, please email Glen at email@example.com.
I met Roger in 1980 when he came to interview. I was a graduate student and then, like now, we were encouraged to come to know the candidates. Roger and I hit it off and we became friends. I count Roger's friendship as one of the best relationships of my life. Roger held my history as I hold a part of his. I am bereft.
I am collecting digital images of Roger so please forward any you have to me. I will look back through the Dept scrapbooks and scan those in as well. If you only have prints, please put them in my box or mail them to me and I will scan them in and return the original to you.
I first met Roger Miller, I think, in 1980. An advisee of Allen Pred at Berkeley, he interviewed at Minnesota from Boulder, where he had been teaching remote sensing as well as human geography. He always joked that we had hired him for his remote sensing experience, and indeed we made him teach this initially, but soon he settled into his niche as an urban historical geographer. His scholarship blended Pred’s approach to time geography and fascination with Sweden with Roger’s interest in the historical morphology of American cities, and shifting urban social life. While he was not a prolific publisher, his articles in Antipode and Society & Space on the impact of automated household appliances on US women’s suburban lives attracted significant attention—an early foray into the gendering of urban geography—and his paper in Cartography and Geographic Information Systems on ethics, GIS and society was a thoughtful contribution to this burgeoning field. Over the years, he also developed strong contacts with Swedish geographers (his Swedish was fluent, as he spent much time there), helping develop historical geographic databases from Sweden’s legendary parish records. He also was responsible for an early urban historical GIS, developed to visualize the morphological evolution of St. Paul.
Roger’s deepest talents were in the classroom. He was a deserved winner of the university’s distinguished undergraduate teaching award, and over the years developed a whole suite of urban classes, on urban planning (developed with Helga Leitner), cities and film, and the changing form of the city. Roger had a knack for developing courses and a classroom atmosphere that attracted students, generating considerable enrollment and visibility for the department. A few years ago he added a 1000 level global cities class to his palette, immediately attracting more students than our long-standing introduction to human geography. He was an avid and accessible graduate advisor, producing a steady stream of Ph.D. students. He also was a regular and reliable contributor to service and administration within the department, attending almost every faculty meeting, frequently chairing the admissions committee, and serving at various times as director of graduate and of undergraduate studies, and in the MGIS program. Chairs came to rely on his willingness to help out on many areas. Beyond the department, he was director of CLA’s former European Studies program, and was in the midst of a term as DGS for the Master of Liberal Studies. Aver since Phil Porter left, he and Marie generously opened their home to the department every December, enabling us to have our largest social gathering of the year—a time of food, drink and music.
Roger was a large presence in the department: Almost always around, distinctive in his colorful Hawai’i style animé shirts, full beard and rumpled hair, and (until recently) an elegant braided ponytail. Roger thought of himself (and was) a child of the anti-war sixties, with a broad smile for everyone, and a puckish sense of humor (and penchant for the inappropriate, albeit well-meaning comment) that kept the rest of us on our toes. His ability to ‘rest his eyes’ during almost any coffee hour presentation, coming to during discussion time to pose one of the more probing questions, was widely admired and envied.
Roger balanced his life between work and the rest. While we were not the closest of friends, I do know that he was an avid movie-goer, regularly sharing tips with others similarly inclined; a dog lover; a passionate recorder player, playing with baroque music groupd; loved going to the theater (letting us know of lesser-known performances that has impressed him); and jumped on his motorbike whenever the snows departed.
I will miss him, as will the department.
I met Roger almost ten years ago when I visited Minnesota for my job interview here in late winter 2001. Roger picked me up from the
airport and I recall we almost immediately began talking about films and literature. It helped that we knew folks in common at Berkeley, not least Allan Pred, which gave us something else to chat over. But it was books and films that really became the focus that day, as they would repeatedly for nearly a decade. His 'reviews' were always honest, straightforward, and, it seemed to me, characteristic of that puckish sensibility, as Eric so well put it. In many succeeding conversations I would leave feeling that I needed to re-view or reread the film or book we had spoken about.
On the way to campus from the airport, Roger took a route through the Longfellow neighborhood and then onto the river road. I retrace the route frequently, since I now live in Longfellow and commute via the river road. My time-geography traces back to a felicitous, memorable encounter.
I suspect that all of us have our stories about Roger, and I wanted to add just a few of my own. Some of them overlap, others do not. On more than one occasion I found myself at Penumbra Theater, or at Theatre de la Jeune Lune, or at some other, more obscure, Twin Cities theater, on Roger's recommendation. I never once regretted going. Like others in the department, I came to rely on his reviews of films, music and theater. Like others, I marveled at his well-crafted coffee hour questions. And like others, I was astounded by his ability to do so despite "resting" his eyes. Once or twice I even tried to do the same myself. After all, Roger made it look quite easy! To my great disappointment, no brilliant questions ensued.
Others experiences were perhaps more unique. My experience in Roger's office during my interview in 1998 was nothing like Vinay's and George's. After sitting down behind his desk, Roger looked at me, paused, and said: "you don't know how to write". I was taken aback. This wasn't how a job interview was supposed to proceed! Where was the praise I so deserved? I suspect that in the years that followed I took satisfaction from the article in question being cited with some frequency. Vindication was mine. But recently I had occasion to return to it. Roger was right: it was unbearable to read. The prose was tortuous. Semi-colons proliferated. Hardly a sentence was free of jargon. Indeed, it's a miracle that it was cited at all. What I never told Roger -- and perhaps never really admitted to myself -- was that his words from that first meeting stayed with me. Language was something to use with care. As much attention needed to be given to style as to content. There was no excuse for clunky prose. I like to think that if Roger read my work today, he'd come to a different conclusion. Perhaps not yet up to his exacting standards, but improving.
Ultimately, however, I'll remember Roger for a lesson that he slowly taught me over the years -- that as important as our work may be, it was even more important to have a life. Roger was a tremendous teacher. He loved working with students and gave his time to them generously. But he also knew how to protect his non-work time the demands of the institution. His movies and his music were as important to him as his lectures. As was his motorcycle. He knew that to live life well one needed to live it fully. That to be truly happy, one had to follow one's heart. It's a lesson that takes many of us a long time to learn.
Roger enriched our lives. He will be deeply missed.
Roger was always fastidious about the use of language, and his love of the written and spoken word was testament to his capacious, literary imagination. He was able to admire erudition even when the ideas that lent themselves to it were not to his taste (I remember a brief conversation in the corridor couple of years ago after Tim Brennan's talk. Roger remarked how beautifully it was delivered, what a pleasure it was to listen to the well-crafted word, even though the arguments did not move him particularly).
When I visited Roger's office during my job interview in Spring 1999, he quizzed me for a few minutes on my research in India, then quickly came to the important issues: what sort of music did I like, and was a coffee drinker? (He was pleasantly surprised, I think, to know that I was fond of jazz and blues; and passionate about coffee.)
Roger may have been gifted in his ability to 'rest his eyes' during coffee hour, as Eric observes; but what I always envied was his ability to ask that acute, exactly formed question that I wished, alas, could have emerged from my mouth.
May Roger's muse long haunt us,
It is hard to believe that I will no longer be able to drop by Roger's office to chat about geography, the university, his music, undergraduate education, and life in general. For the past 20 years, Roger was my closest colleague in the department. He was the witness at Susanna and my wedding in 1992, a close confidant on all matters, a research colleague in the GIS and society work, and a loyal friend at all times. Roger, originally from Michigan City, Indiana received his BA from Oberlin College and Ph.D. from Berkeley. He taught one year at the University of Colorado before coming to Minnesota in 1980.
One of my own fondest memories of Roger was learning ARC/Info together in the early 1990s on a UNIX workstation in the then computer laboratory, now the graduate student lounge. My goal was to teach the software in advanced GIS; Roger was working on a fascinating study to digitize, map and analyze the detailed urban geography of 19th century St. Paul. Using the original Sanborn insurance maps, he digitized all structures in the city for a half-century period, and was able to illustrate the changing urban patterns at the building scale. It was one of the original and most innovative studies in historical GIS.
He was a real Renaissance scholar, interested in all aspects of geography (and many other fields) and our best critic of coffee hour. He was often a calm reasoned voice in many of our debates and discussions, and could often get us to see the big picture. Not only was he a great teacher, but was constantly reinventing his classes, creating new classes, and connecting to other parts of the university. He was a remarkable talent in the classroom and, as others have noted, one of our very finest award-winning teachers. This fall, he was to teach the 8001 geographic thought class that he had also taught twenty years earlier on a regular basis with Fred Lukermann. Some have noted that Roger could appear to be drifting off and then ask the most relevant question. I was amazed that he could be listening and grading papers at the same time. I envied this talent.
Roger was the very best departmental, college and university citizen. He would take on any role in the department from Director of Graduate Studies (twice) to the Chair of many departmental committees. Chair after chair could rely on Roger to take on any assignment and have confidence of the quality of Roger's work. Roger thought that being in the department on a regular basis, and interacting with his colleagues, was important. He served on the original Council for Liberal Education and helped transition the university curriculum to semesters. Recently, I asked Roger to serve on the Campus Writing Board and he did. Last year, when we needed an individual serve on the Council to better bridge the social sciences and humanities I asked Roger. He agreed. Given his intellectual breadth, he held adjunct appointments in several departments, including Adjunct Associate Professor, Program in American Studies, Department of Cultural Studies and Comparative Literature, Hubert H. Humphrey Institute of Public Affairs, and Program in Comparative Studies in Discourse and Society.
Roger's death leaves a gaping hole in the social fabric of our department and in our curriculum and teaching. The department of geography at the University of Minnesota will never quite be the same without this wonderful, thoughtful, warm, and genuine human being.
Like the rest of you, I am stunned by the sudden loss of Roger.
I did not meet Roger until 2002, but he more than anyone quickly made me feel a part of his world and of the world of geography—in large part by actually living out geography's capacious diversity. He was an urban scholar, motorcycle enthusiast, film nerd, Scandinavophile, animé lover, connoisseur of exotic liquors and coffees, recorder player, hippie, rogue, gastronome, medical disaster area, reader, enthusiast, critic, advisor, and friend. He changed my perception of life significantly simply by living his own life of professional and intellectual satisfaction, emotional richness, and fun.
Roger stayed with me and Colleen on the night of May 17, and the three of us went out for dinner with Lea Coon. Roger drank a pint of Lagunitas Hairy Eyeball and ate some chicken in a jerk coffee sauce that he asked be made extra hot. We stayed up late talking primarily about travels and books—he was uncertain whether it would be worth the time and effort to finish reading David Foster Wallace's Infinite Jest. When he left here after breakfast on the morning of the 18th, heading for Ohio, he was happy, relaxed, and healthy.
The world is suddenly a much emptier place. All I can think to do is try to live up to the personal and professional example that Roger set every day.
Tim Mennel '07
No! This is just terrible news, almost impossible to digest.
Just yesterday I recommended to a student that he read "The Hoover in the
Garden", which was the piece Roger had cooking when we went to Denver. Roger
would appreciate that my student is a Polish immigrant who drives other
immigrants to their housekeeping jobs in suburban Chicago, spending hours and
hours driving from house to house, eating into discretionary and family time.
He would see that the Hoover is still in the Garden.
The Denver trip was the one where we took a short detour to northwestern
Wyoming and went horseback riding. There it turned out that among Roger's
skills was the knowledge of riding "English". What an echo of his youth, but
not that far from Baroque recorder music, his facility with Shakespeare and
Tom Stoppard, and ability to speak Middle English.
And at the same time, no contemporary work was too outre for Roger. I took it
as a high compliment from him a few years ago at my house when he said after
looking at my bookshelf (somewhat surprised) that I had good "taste" -- he had
his eye on Gilbert Sorrentino and Kathy Acker next to John Donne. So, to keep
up my schooling, he gave me Mark Z. Danielewski's House of Leaves, certainly
one of the most discomiting books I've read in the last decade. Perfect Roger.
Sometimes his taste reach exceeded his grasp. I treasure the moment at the
Sri Lanka Curry House when Roger volunteered that no food was too hot for him.
But this manifestly was, and the fiery cauldron kept roaring up over the
cloak of nonchalance that Roger threw over it.
No one giggled harder over this than he did.
I wrote my dissertation in his office while he was on sabbatical. I had use
of his heatless, clutchless, brakeless car. I had a great dinner with him in
Pittsburgh, a doubleheader at Wrigley Field, a latte in Falcoln Heights.
And like you say Trevor, we'll always have those road trips. Amazing that
that's where he left us, on the road.
This will take a lot of getting used to.
My best to you both, and hope to catch up with you soon,
Roger Miller regularly taught an honors section of The City and Film, and students loved it. He also served as the Honors Faculty Representative for the department, and we occasionally chatted in person, by phone, or on-line. We discovered that we had one interesting other connection: both of us have sons named Jonah, and both of them were named after the wonderful film Jonah Who Will Be 25 in the Year 2000. He will be much missed by all of us on campus and beyond.
I have started this email a number of times but couldn't bring myself to finish it. This is partly because I will simply echo what others have shared, but also because it hurts my heart to speak of Roger in the past tense.
I cannot overstate the significance that Roger had on my professional trajectory and thus my personal life. I happened to enroll in his Perspectives on Planning class in 2001 -just because it sounded interesting- during my first semester as a Master's student in the Humphrey Institute. It took about four class periods of Roger's spirited lectures for me to wish that I could ditch Humphrey altogether for the Geography department. Although I didn't opt out of the Hump, I became one of Roger's regular office hours groupies (yes, I was one of *those* students), and I have no doubt that his advocacy facilitated my admission into the Geog. grad program. (Now you know who to blame.) :)
Roger continued to advocate for me, not least in my "gang of three" "advising" meeting (god, am i really remembering that name correctly? Current grads, you have no idea what you missed.) And, as others have said, he was consistently welcoming, available, and just as willing to chat as he was willing to provide constructive feedback.
I feel so fortunate that I had a chance to see Roger in May, right before he left for his trip. I gave him grief for not stopping over in Lethbridge during his motorcycle trip last year and we made a plan for him to make a pitstop here during this year's trip. I was really looking forward to hearing Roger's unique perspective on the landscape that I currently call home-- I'm sure that he would notice things in minutes that I haven't noticed in the two years that I've lived here. I hoped to learn from Roger for many, many more years.
Given what I owe to Roger, nothing that I can say feels the least bit satisfying. I can only hope that I can emulate his spirit for inspired teaching and inspired living.
Tiffany Muller Myrdahl '08
I just returned from vacation in Colorado to the heartbreaking news of Roger's death. It feels so strange to be over here in St. Paul and not be among other people who knew and loved him well, so I am grateful to read others' remembrances of him. I hope that someone will compile these to share with his family, because I think they would really appreciate them. Roger made an enormous difference to me as a student in the department. He welcomed me in with open arms, bushy eyebrows, and a sense of humor that always helped me to keep perspective. He served as my advisor during my first year, even though my research ended up diverging from his area of expertise, and he always was a source of support and kind counsel throughout my time in the department. Working with him as a TA, he was always tremendously humane and really appreciative of my work. In addition, I always knew that he cared about me not only as a student or assistant, but as a human being first and foremost. I am so grateful to have had him in my life, and for all of us to have had him in our department.
I just found out about Roger. I am devastated, to say the least.
Over the past two weeks I have had Roger on my mind every day as Maria, Black, and I travel around Iceland. He was the one who told me to come here, and I can see why - it was to get to know him better.
Long drives alone in the fjords, thick wool sweaters, great espresso at every small town, Scandinavian design, and whale meat sandwiches... Roger is Iceland personified!
I already wanted to be a geographer when I met Roger in 2006, but he made me want to actually live as a geographer. I can only try to live up to his standards through good living, clear and interesting scholarship, and great teaching.
I miss him so much already... as a friend and a mentor.
The shattering news about Roger's most untimely passing blindsided us. I've been bereaved and taken by the tragedy and find myself moved by the loss still. Of the many things I remember fondly about discussions and meetings with Roger, was his love of coffee and the endearing relationship he held to his office espresso machine. It's clear commemoration and celebration events are in the works, but I would like to make a small suggestion that we dedicate one coffee hour each year to Roger's memory and invite a visitor to speak to topics in urban geography and cinematic geography.
Roger Pierce Miller
You seldom meet a fluently Swedish speaking American without any Swedish roots at all. But Roger was such a unique person.
During an annual meeting of American geographers in the early 80s Roger met a Swedish colleague, specialist on the well documented rural Swedish society of the 19th century. Roger became interested in the subject and already 1983-84 he got a grant and we could meet him as guest researcher at the Department of Human Geography, Stockholm University. In a certain sense, the language, he was extremely well prepared for this visit. However, Roger was not only interested in the Swedish language and rural societies. He took part in many other ongoing research projects regarding Swedish society, history and landscapes. He gave his ”adopted” Sweden a lot of enthusiasm, but he also showed us his strong affection for the States in numerous lectures and in his text productions. Like many Americans he showed us private photographs not least from his long bike trips – of the kind that this spring so sadly ended his life.
Roger Miller had ever since close contacts with the Department of Human Geography in Stockholm – but also with the Swedish university towns of Lund and Visby. During his time as guest professor 1983-84 he participated with enthusiasm not only in research, education and excursions but also in our more private events like skating, mountain walks and festivities. His unique research on immigrants from Northern Sweden to Stockholm in the 19th century built upon archive ledgers transformed by Roger into a modern database. Parallel to that he was engaged in cooking. Some of us met sushi, of course Roger made, for the first time. His odd skills and great enthusiasm helped one of our relatives to get her old fashioned loom put together and he also presented advanced weaving advises.
Successively the social side of the Swedish society, not least in metropolitan areas, became very much in focus for Rogers interest, especially the segregated suburban areas of Stockholm. However, he showed a continuous interest in agrarian landscapes and culture traditions. Now he focused on two Swedish “core provinces”, Gotland and Dalecarlia. Whatever he did he showed the same enthusiasm.
In 1989 Roger offered us the opportunity to make an excursion in the States. It was an extremely well planned and enthusiastically led trip. Rogers numerous contacts on all levels, his sometimes unusual and astonishing contributions and not least his great knowledge of Americas geography and history made the journey over vast areas from West to East unforgettable.
Last time we met was in April 2009 and we were always expecting him to Stockholm soon again. We now realize that our warm and friendly contacts are broken. We all miss Roger very much.
Bertil. Kerstin, Lennart, Thomas, Torvald, Ulf
I became very sad when I realized that Roger Miller is no longer with us. I met Roger for the first time when I visited Minnesota with a group of undergraduate students from Karlstad University, Sweden in 1997. During that year, for the first time, I was able to visit my study area in Meeker county (the area where people from Östmark parish in Sweden settled down with a beginning during 1880:s). Roger took us around twin cities in a personal and friendly way. He showed us geographically interesting areas like the early settlements and later riverfront development. During the years we had many contacts by letters and we met again in 2007 when I brought a group of graduate students to Minnesota. Now again Roger showed his interest in contacts with Sweden and offered us a city excursion, he invited us to his home and we also got the possibility to visit his class when he showed a film of the riots in Paris – all in a very generous way. For this fall I had plans to go and see Roger again since the idea had come up to develop the contacts between our departments further, with a focus in international migration and identities. Now I feel this can be difficult without Roger, but most important I hope Rogers family can stand the situation.
The Department of Geography is sad to report that Professor Emeritus Fred E. Lukermann, a renowned member of our faculty and former dean of CLA, passed away September 1, 2009 from complications after a fall while returning home from his cabin on Lake Vermilion. A Minneapolis native, born December 9, 1921, Fred graduated from Roosevelt High School in 1940 and entered the University of Minnesota the following fall. After service in the U.S. Army, he returned to the University, earning his B.S., M.A. and Ph.D. degrees.
Fred joined the University of Minnesota's geography faculty in the early 1950s. The Geography Department steadily achieved national and international prominence, and, as chair of the department, Fred nurtured a pervasive spirit of wide-ranging and creative intellectual inquiry.
Fred assumed several leadership and administrative roles at the University of Minnesota. In addition to the chair of Geography, Fred served as associate dean for social sciences in the College of Liberal Arts; assistant vice president for academic affairs; and dean of CLA from 1978-1989. Working with CLA Dean E. W. Ziebarth and University Vice President Jerry Shepherd, Fred was instrumental in establishing the Departments of African American & African Studies, American Indian Studies, Chicano Studies, the Urban Studies Program, the School of Public Affairs (later renamed the Humphrey Institute of Public Affairs), and the Center for Urban and Regional Affairs.
Along with his inspired teaching, generous advising of graduate students, and creative scholarly output, Fred pursued a life-long interest in the proto-geography in Classical Greece, in the development of modern geographic thought and practice within the history of science, in the historical geography of North America, and in cultural pluralism.
Memorials in Fred's honor may be sent to the Fred and Barbara Lukermann Geography Fellowship (# 6737) at the University of Minnesota Foundation, McNamara Alumni Center, 200 Oak Street, Suite 500 Minneapolis, MN 55455-2010.
Please join us in saluting Professor Helga Leitner for excellence in teaching as she is a recipient of the 2008-09 Award for Outstanding Contributions to Postbaccalaureate, Graduate, and Professional Education.This award recognizes the significance of excellent teaching by inducting the award recipients into the Academy of Distinguished Teachers. Academy members provide important leadership to the University community, serving as mentors, advisers, and spokespersons for the University's mission. Read More.
Join us in congratulating Professor Judith Martin recipient of the 2009 University of Minnesota President's Award for Outstanding Service. Established in 1997 to recognize faculty and staff who have provided exceptional service to the University, this award is presented each year in the spring and honors active or retired faculty or staff members who have gone well beyond their regular duties and have demonstrated an unusual commitment to the University community. Read More.
Congratulations to Eric Sheppard who was recently named a Regents Professor of the University of Minnesota. The Regents Professor position was established in 1965 by the Board of Regents to recognize the national and international prominence of faculty members. It serves as the highest recognition for faculty who have made unique contributions to the quality of the University of Minnesota through exceptional accomplishments in teaching, research and scholarship or creative work, and contributions to the public good.
Eric is described by his colleagues as a "towering intellect, a universally admired educator and a highly respected leader." His contributions are recognized globally and have transformed the core understanding of the space economy, urban transformation, regional development, globalization and geographic science. He is credited with bringing the university's Department of Geography to a top-three national status. Considered to be one of the worlds leading geographers, he is the author of cutting-edge graduate and undergraduate textbooks, which have become key sources in classrooms around the world. His contributions to the Interdisciplinary Center for the Study of Global Change have made him a vital part in internationalizing the university. He has helped organize numerous international conferences and has been a keynote, plenary lecturer or invited lecturer in more than 130 conferences or universities across the globe. With his students, he is considered a successful advisor and a trusted mentor.
The Department of Geography is sad to report the passing of Mei-Ling Hsu who served our department and profession with distinction for over three decades and was a role model for many young scholars pursuing work in cartography and/or China.
Dr. Hsu was a highly-respected scholar in the area of cartographic symbolization, Chinese cartography, and map projections with additional specialties in population geography and East Asian studies. One of her most significant contributions was a population map of Taiwan produced in the 1970s, and updated with new data in the 1990s. She also helped build the cartography and GIS programs in the department. Mei-Ling Hsu joined the Minnesota Geography Department in 1965, and served as chair from 1994 to 1997. She also was the first Director of the University of Minnesota’s China Center.