December 15, 2000
Volume XXXIII, No. 40

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Farewell, Dean Miller


Dr. Sanford A. Miller applied skills learned in faculty and governmental positions to effectively lead the Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences.

Dr. Sanford A. Miller, professor and dean of the Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences, said he isn’t retiring, he’s only leaving a position.

The Health Science Center community gathered Monday for a reception honoring Dr. Miller, who is returning to the Washington, D.C., area after 13 years as dean. The former MIT professor and Food and Drug Administration (FDA) center head will pick up where he left off, as professor and senior fellow at the Georgetown University Center for Food and Nutrition Policy.

President Cigarroa and other leaders praised him Monday for overseeing the Graduate School as the school doubled in enrollment, added new degree programs, created endowed professorships and gained enhanced research funding. Dean Miller received a ceremonial Health Science Center chair as a symbol of respect and admiration, and was named professor and dean emeritus.

"I have been unable to think of a way of thanking you all for the last 13 years," he said. "As each rocket stage fires during a mission to space, there is a time for new leadership for institutions such as the Graduate School. The new leader will be extremely lucky to inherit this collection of scientists."

South Texas was blessed to have recruited Dr. Miller, whose résumé included 22 years at MIT as professor of nutritional biochemistry and distinguished service during the Carter and Reagan administrations as director of the FDA’s Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition. In an interview in the June 5, 1987, issue of The News, Dr. Miller said: "The university is young, and the faculty are enthusiastic and exceptionally good in many research areas. I want to help build the next step—centers of excellence that will make this university a national leader."

Those words turned out to be prophetic. The Institute of Biotechnology (IBT) opened in the Texas Research Park in 1990. The Aging Research and Education Center was established in 1992. The Center for Biomolecular Structure Analysis opened in the Allied Health/Research Building in 1997. The South Texas Centers for Biology in Medicine opened in late 2000. And these are but a few examples of specialized centers of expertise and technology on campus.

York Duncan, chief operating officer of the research park, said the Texas Research Park Foundation Board recently recognized Dr. Miller for his service to the board and his vision in helping build the park. He contributed significantly in the areas of programming and logistics, Duncan said.

In an interview Monday, Dr. Miller said he was proud of "the great young people we’ve brought on board, in addition to our senior people. The development of junior faculty is a strong suit of this school and something of which I am proud."

He also pointed to the continued growth of departments under the capable direction of outstanding chairmen recruited to San Antonio since 1987. They include Drs. Vernon Bishop, physiology; Alan Frazer, pharmacology; Robert Reddick, pathology; Wen-Hwa Lee, molecular medicine/IBT; and Brian Herman, cellular and structural biology. Two current and equally outstanding chairs were in place on Dr. Miller’s first day: Dr. Joel Baseman, microbiology, and Dr. Merle Olson, biochemistry, the newly appointed interim dean of the Graduate School.

Dr. Miller touched on these highlights:

  • Increase in graduate student enrollment in basic sciences from 97 in 1987 to 208 today;
  • Development of the IBT and the molecular medicine Ph.D. degree;
  • Development of Ph.D. programs in nursing and radiological sciences;
  • Growth of the research budget from $13.6 million in 1987 to $36.3 million today;
  • Development of "supercenters" in aging studies and other fields; and
  • Creation of the Center for Biomolecular Structure Analysis.

In addition to his appointment at Georgetown, Dr. Miller will take a joint appointment with the Institute for Food Safety at The University of Maryland and will continue his service on six committees of the National Academy of Sciences.

He will join his wife, Judy, at home in Bethesda, Md. The Millers have commuted 1,500 miles between the East Coast and Texas to see each other since he took the dean’s position. "Judy is very involved as a volunteer in the correspondence office of the White House. She also served two terms as president of volunteers at the National Archives and was vice president of the Constitutional Study Group, which was responsible for celebrations of the 200th anniversary of the U.S. Constitution," he said.

Dr. Miller doesn’t have any plans to slow down. "I’m going to do what I love best, which is teaching, writing papers, doing research and ‘pontificating,’ " he said with the typical Miller wit. "I fully anticipate seeing my Health Science Center colleagues in Washington, and coming to San Antonio from time to time."