Minnie M. Miller
is honored with a Brick from Geraldine Savaiano.
The person we would like to nominate for a place in the Plaza of Heroines is Dr. Minnie M. Miller, a long-time professor of languages at Emporia State University. A Kansas girl, she was ahead of her time when she earned a PhD from the University of Chicago long before it was common for women to do so. Throughout the years, she taught many hundreds of young Kansans (and at least one Oklahoman) not only to conjugate French and Spanish verbs, but also to yearn to see and explore Paris streets and museums, and to revel in the richness of Spanish literature and its very human characters.
At the same time, she taught us the meaning of boot-straps and tough love! She took a very human interest in all of her students and helped us to realize our own potential by her concern and encouragement, and even by supplying funds if taking advantage of an opportunity required that. She was a recognized scholar, but she did not shut herself into an ivory tower.
Dr. Miller traveled widely, visiting all of the states of the United States except North Dakota. She made ten trips to Europe and toured Canada and Australia. In 1954, she traveled to all of the countries of Latin America as a representative of the International Federation of University Women. In 1958, she returned to five countries in South America as a delegate of the American Association of University Women.
Minnie Miller held many offices in AAUW: Emporia branch president, Kansas Division president, vice-president from the Southern Central region, and national secretary. For six years, she was Chairman of the International Relations Committee for LFUW. The AAUW gives an endowed international fellowship each year in her name.
In her own field of languages, Dr. Miller was former president of the Kansas Modern Language Association and of the West Central Chapter of the American Association of Teachers of French. She was the author or co-author of six French and Spanish textbooks published between 1930 and 1966. During her tenure at E-State, she directed the service bureau for modern language teachers.
Special honors granted to Minnie Miller included the Silver (1936) and Gold (1948) Palmes Academiques from the French government, selection as one of the outstanding women of Kansas for 1956, Kansas Master Teacher Award in 1958, Xi Phi fraternity award for outstanding faculty member in 1964 , and the Distinguished Alumni Award in 1968.
After her retirement in 1968, Miss Miller taught English as a Second Language in the Universidad Industrial de Santander in Bucaramanga, Colombia, for two years. On her return to Emporia, she tutored foreigners in English, served on various committees of the First Methodist Church, did volunteer work for the Lyon County Historical Museum, and was an observer for the Human Relations Committee for the League of Women Voters of Emporia. She also wrote historical pieces for the Emporia Gazette. In her spare time, she tutored war brides and other recent immigrants not only in the English language but also with meaningful insights into the cultural differences they would encounter--all in the cozy informality of her own home.
As our major professor, Dr. Minnie guided both Gene and me through our Master's degrees and felt that she had personally engineered our marriage! Her lure was the unlimited use of her neat little car for dates. Even so, she had to be pretty patient while we disposed of the priority business of service in World War II for Gene and, for me, five years of teaching and educational administrative work in Panama and Peru. Minnie was one of only two non-family members at our wedding. She watched our children grow, and spent every Christmas Eve with us for years. When our daughter Nicky finished high school at mid-term, she completed the year with Aunt Minnie in Bucaramanga where she lived with a Colombian family, took some university courses and, thanks to Minnie's help, was able to see a bit more of South America.
For all of us, Minnie was a combination of mentor and treasured aunt, and this tribute to a wonderful, selfless woman is deeply felt and long overdue.
Submitted by Jerry and Gene Savaiano
August 31, 1998