Chapel Hills Ironwoods neighborhood lost a good one last year.
Long-time residents know the Roger Miller family for three industrious tow-headed children Lance, Rachael and Luke always ready to baby-sit, house-sit or do yard work; and their parents, on-the-go Debbie and quietly happy Roger with sparkling smiles offered to any neighbor.
After being diagnosed with cancer in September 2005, Roger died Nov. 6 at age 53.
Neighbors knew he was a scientist, but few could fathom the depth of his brilliance; the science department at UNC has yet to recover. To honor him, the Roger E. Miller Memorial Symposium will be held Saturday at The Friday Center, where colleagues and former students in physical chemistry from around the world will engage in scientific discussion.
Roger had one of the most productive careers in physical chemistry that the world has seen or is likely to see, wrote Tomas Baer of UNC in a special issue of International Reviews in Physical Chemistry, dedicated to Miller, who had edited the journal since 2004.
Born and educated in Ontario, Canada, Miller was already winning awards before he was hired by UNC in 1985. Three years later he was promoted to full professor with tenure; and in 1996 was named to the John B. Carroll Chair of Chemistry.
Part of Millers last summer was spent in London, after he was elected a fellow of the Royal Society of London, the science academy of the United Kingdom.
Among other great scientists, Millers signature is with those of Albert Einstein and Stephen Hawking, Debbie Miller said, remembering their last visit to London, which included seeing five plays. It was a wonderful time, she said.
In laymans terms, Miller looked at the atoms around us through a powerful microscope to discover how matter at its most fundamental level behaves, according to Holden Thorp, chemistry department chairman at UNC.
Along with his research, Miller wrote or contributed to more than 200 journal articles.
He was a big part of our reputation in physical chemistry, Thorp said. We need to recover, probably by hiring more than one new colleague. I think it would be impossible to find somebody of his caliber.
Genius aside, Miller was simply a great guy.
He was a person of impeccable integrity and judgment, Thorp said. He was an incredibly caring mentor who had the ability to expect a lot from his students but also have them feel very appreciative of what he did for them as a teacher.
From my standpoint, he was first a father, said neighbor Jeff Kueffer of the man he described as even-tempered and mild. I knew him as a craftsman. He enjoyed working in wood and punching around the house and redoing things.
Miller also enjoyed boating and golfing with his sons. Rachael provided the joy of grandfather-hood with the birth of Rylee two years before Millers death; and he had looked forward to the March birth of Lances first child.
Miller was the ecclesiastic leader of the student congregation at The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, where the whole family was active.
At the end, clearly, he had a deep faith that was important for him as he went through this horrendous crisis, Kueffer said.
With other long-time neighbors Steve and Julia Allred, Janese Frantz and her husband, Elman, planted a cherry sapling in the Millers front yard.
Julia got to thinking about how committed to the neighborhood he and Debbie had been, Janese Frantz said. They never slacked off on neighborhood workdays.
Julia got the idea that we get this beautiful tree that would flower in the spring as a symbol of new life, Frantz said.
Debbie picked out the spot by a bench in the front yard.
We worked together, got it planted and then it began to rain, Frantz said. It felt very emotional for all of us.After Debbie quickly excused herself to go inside, her neighbors walked home.
I run in the morning, and when I go by that cul-de-sac I see the tree and all the beautiful landscaping Roger did, Frantz said. Its a permanent reminder. Contact Valarie Schwartz at email@example.com
All rights reserved. This copyrighted material may not be published, broadcast or redistributed in any manner.