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Miller Makes History By Being Named Trinity’s First Distinguished Lecturer
by Carolyn Wheat ’86

When history professor Char Miller speaks, his infectious enthusiasm for his topic rubs off on the listener. 

That he is having fun is apparent. 

That he enjoys sharing his passion for American history is obvious. 

The Organization of American Historians (OAH) – the major professional body of U.S. historians – has tapped into Miller’s talents as a scholar and an orator and has appointed him an OAH Distinguished Lecturer.  His three-year term begins in the fall.    John Martin, history department chair, says this is a major honor within the profession and the OAH’s list includes many of the most distinguished contributors to the study of American history.  Miller is the first professor at Trinity to receive this honor.

He couldn’t be more thrilled, since the distinction will allow him to reach a larger public.  “The OAH has tremendous outreach to universities, high schools and middle schools,” he says.  “I don’t care what the topic is.  The real honor is getting out of the academy and going places and speaking with faculty and students.”  Miller admits to being shameless about preaching history, but realizes this stint as a distinguished lecturer will allow him to give back to the profession.  He believes that the OAH is tremendously supportive of junior faculty, especially at the entry level, and it made a difference for him during the early stages of his career.  “The best historians are those that understand they have an obligation:  not simply to be academic and the publishing professional, but also the teacher to the wider community.” 

While Miller often tackles any topic, his lectures mainly focus on two areas: the urbanization of San Antonio and the broader issues of the urbanization of South Texas and the West, especially since 1950; and the U.S. Forest Service and the national forests and grasslands.  “There are 192 million acres of national forest and grasslands, and we fight about them all the time.”  His lectures look at the history of the forests and the issues surrounding them which are framed around a central issue:  the more people you put in the West, the more pressure you put on the land. 

Miller will spend the 2007-08 academic year at Pomona College in California as a visiting professor in environmental analysis and history.  Pomona is ringed by a series of national forests.  He hopes to teach a class on the national forests so that students can see the dilemmas, particularly in Southern California, where millions of people are encroaching on these fragile landscapes.

 The professorship will also give him more opportunity to travel and lecture, with the potential to have conversations with new audiences.  “Not many professions allow you to have rich and reciprocal relationships with your students,” he notes.  “Creating that spark and creating connections.  It may be short lived, but that’s okay.  That’s what the joy of teaching is!” 

Miller welcomes Trinity alumni who would like for him to lecture to contact the OAH at www.oah.org/activities/lectureship.

Web sites:

Courses taught:

  • U.S. History to Reconstruction
  • U.S. History since Reconstruction
  • First-Year Seminar: Freedom and Responsibility
  • African American
  • History American Life and Thought; The City in History; Modern American Culture Applied Urban Studies U.S.
  • Environmental History
Books published:

  • Deep in the Heart of San Antonio: Land & Life in South Texas, ( San Antonio: Trinity University Press, 2004)
  • Gifford Pinchot and the Making of Modern Environmentalism, ( Washington, D.C.: Island Press/Shearwater Books, 2001; paperback, 2004)
  • The Greatest Good: 100 Years of Forestry in America, (Washington, D.C.: The Society of American Foresters, 1999; second edition, 2004)
  • Gifford Pinchot: The Evolution of An American Conservationist, The Pinchot Lecture Series, (Milford, PA: Grey Towers Press, 1993)
  • Fathers and Sons: The Bingham Family and the American Mission, (Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 1982). In the series, American Civilization, edited by Allen F. Davis



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