J. Hillis Miller, fourth president of the University of Florida, was born August 29, 1899 in Front Royal, Virginia. After attending Randolph-Macon Academy, Miller received his A.B from the University of Richmond in 1924. He completed his graduate work in psychology at the University of Virginia (A.M.) in 1928 and at Columbia University (Ph.D.) in 1933, where he specialized in counseling and personnel administration.
In between degrees, Miller served as an instructor in Psychology at William and Mary from 1925 to 1928. He joined Bucknell University as Dean of Freshmen and Assistant Professor of Psychology in 1930, before being promoted to Dean of Students in 1933. After serving six years as President of Keuka College, Miller was appointed Associate Commissioner of Education for the State of New York in 1941.
Miller was selected President of the University of Florida in 1947 in time to witness the tripling of UF’s enrollment due in part to the new GI Bill. On top of the postwar enrollment boom, the University student body was also augmented by an additional 601 women, who attended UF in its first year as a coeducational institution.
To compensate for the growth, Miller’s primary efforts were in the area of building construction and staff development. A $15,000,000 building program was undertaken to expand existing campus facilities, develop a medical college and expand academic programs to include, among other things, ten new doctoral degree programs. Also during his administration, Century Tower was raised, as part of UF’s Centennial Celebration, to honor the hundreds of UF students and alumni killed in the World Wars.
Miller died unexpectedly on November 14, 1953 at age 54. After his death, Vice President John Allen served as acting president until the appointment of J. Wayne Reitz. In 1959, the J. Hillis Miller Health Center was dedicated in memory of his work to establish Florida’s first medical school.