Char Miller, professor of history at Trinity University in San Antonio, Texas received an honorary doctorate in humane letters from Plymouth State University at the commencement ceremony on May 21 on the PSU campus.
During his 2004-2005 leave from Trinity, Miller is serving as P.J. Roosevelt Lecturer for the Theodore Roosevelt Association and as the Centennial Lecturer for the U.S. Forest Service, touring the country on behalf of the Forest Service, speaking on the history and politics of federal land management since the late 19th century. The tour is part of the celebration of the agency’s 100th anniversary. It began in September 2004 in Montana and continues through many stops in the U.S. and even Canada before concluding in July 2005 at the Smithsonian-sponsored Folklife Festival on the National Mall in Washington, D.C.
“It’s healthy to have people on the outside scrutinizing this public agency,” Miller has said. “Ultimately, this is an expression of democracy. When an agency no longer feels it’s under scrutiny, that’s when we’re in trouble.” He points out that Gifford Pinchot, the first chief of the U.S. Forest Service, used to travel the country “just to be yelled at,” explaining that Pinchot wanted to ensure that citizens had the opportunity to express their concerns to the Forest Service, since that agency’s decisions would have a direct impact on their lives and livelihoods.
Miller is the author of Gifford Pinchot and the Making of Modern Environmentalism (Island Press, 2001). Pinchot was a friend and sparring partner of President Theodore Roosevelt, who appointed him to head the new Forest Service. Pinchot was also a two-term governor of Pennsylvania. In his book, the first biography of Pinchot in over 40 years, Miller shows Pinchot’s deep care for nature and interest in global resource conservation, a view that runs counter to Pinchot’s previous reputation for cold utilitarianism.
Says Plymouth State University President Donald P. Wharton, “Char Miller’s superb biography of Gifford Pinchot is a model of environmental historical research. His thoughtful reconstruction of the historical context in which Pinchot lived and worked has allowed us to see accurately the profound contribution that Pinchot made to the American conservation movement. We are indebted to Miller’s exhaustive research, thoughtful perspective and graceful prose.”
Char Miller earned his B.A. in history and political science from Pitzer College and went on to receive his M.A. and Ph.D. degrees from John Hopkins University. He has taught at Trinity since 1981. In 2002, he was named Piper Professor for Teaching Excellence from the Minnie Stevens Piper Foundation for excellence in teaching and service to higher education in Texas; he received the Dr. and Mrs. Z.T. Scott Faculty Fellowship for Excellence in Teaching from Trinity University in 1997. He was named Trinity’s Outstanding Professor, Humanities and Arts Division for 1996-97, and that university’s Outstanding Professor in 1986. Miller served as chair of the history department at Trinity from 1998–2004, and as director of urban studies since 2001. Miller’s work focuses on American environmental, social and cultural history.
Miller’s most recent book, Deep in the Heart of San Antonio: Land and Life in South Texas, was released in October 2004 by Trinity University Press. Upcoming books will cover the 1921 San Antonio flood and reconstruction, and conservation in American culture. He is also co-author of the award winning The Greatest Good: 100 Years of Forestry in America (SAF, 1999) and editor of The Atlas of U.S. and Canadian Environmental History (Routledge, 2003), On the Border: An Environmental History of San Antonio (University of Pittsburgh Press, 2001) and many other volumes.
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