In Memoriam: Professor Emeritus Robert E. (Bob) Miller
“Bob served TAM and the University of Illinois for 40 years, and he remained involved with MechSE until recently falling ill,” MechSE department head Tony Jacobi said in a message to the department. “It is hard to estimate the number of students he impacted, but it is surely in the thousands. It is hard to fathom the impact he had in our community and more broadly in society.”
Professor Miller was born October 4, 1932 in Rockford, and he went on to earn three degrees at Illinois (BSAAE ‘54, MSTAM ‘55, PhDTAM ’59).
He joined the University of Illinois in 1954 as a graduate teaching assistant in the former Department of Theoretical and Applied Mechanics. The following year he was promoted to instructor and taught full-time while studying for his Ph.D. After completing his doctoral degree in 1959, he became an assistant professor. Due to his extraordinary skill in the classroom, he was promoted two years later to associate professor with tenure. He became full professor in 1968 and retired as an emeritus professor in 1994.
During his 35-year career in the department, Professor Miller positively influenced hundreds of undergraduate and graduate engineering students, receiving top evaluations from them each semester. His devotion to the profession was recognized with the Everitt Award for Teaching Excellence in 1975 and the national ASEE Mechanics Division Distinguished Educator Award in 1991. His students demonstrated their appreciation by making him an Honorary Knight of St. Patrick’s in 1988 and by nominating him for the Engineering College Advising Award, which he received in 1991.
Professor Miller also maintained an active research program. His research, which focused on the numerical analysis of problems in solid mechanics, was widely known for producing results that engineers could put into immediate practice. Consequently, he attracted a large number of research students, even without the aid of research assistantships. All told, he produced 30 Ph.D. and 43 Master’s graduates—a level of graduate advising that exceeded departmental norms by a sizable margin.
In addition to teaching and research, Professor Miller gave generously of his time to department and campus committees. For many years he was the TAM graduate coordinator and later served as chief advisor for the undergraduate engineering mechanics program. At the campus level he served a three-year term on the Faculty Advisory Committee. As an emeritus professor, he continued to serve the department by teaching summer courses and by serving as the TAM Alumni Association’s constituent representative to the UIUC Alumni Association. He has also contributed to philanthropic efforts, donating to named scholarships and various other funds. Seeking to honor him for the tremendous impact he made upon their lives,his students have established an endowment fund in his name—the Robert E. Miller Scholarships and Fellowships Fund.
In 2010, Professor Miller received the University of Illinois College of Engineering Alumni Honor Award for Distinguished Service. In 2015, alumnus Edward M. Caulfield (BSME ’72, MSTAM ’74, PhDTAM ’79) funded a new scholarship, the Robert E. Miller Scholarship, in honor of his longtime mentor.