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Ren Harman: Good morning. This is Ren Harman, the Project Director for VT Stories. Today is May 16, 2018 at about 9:09 AM. We are in the Holtzman Alumni Center on the campus of Virginia Tech with a very special guest. And sir this is the only time I will prompt you, if you could just state in a complete sentence my name is, when you were born and where you were born.

Gerald Miller: My name is Gerald Miller, Gerry I go by. My date of birth is April 17, 1943 and I was born in Harrisonburg, Virginia in Rockingham Memorial Hospital.

Ren: Wonderful. What years did you attend Virginia Tech?

Gerald: I came to Virginia Tech in September of 1961 and left, graduated in June of 1965.

Ren: What was your degree?

Gerald: Agronomy.

Ren: For those who may not know what agronomy is can you explain that?

Gerald: Soils and crops and climate, but primarily soils and my area of 1:00expertise was in soils after I went on to grad school, so that was where I focused also as an undergrad in the area of soils.

Ren: So you were born in Harrisonburg. What was your early life growing up? What was your childhood like?

Gerald: I grew up on a general farm, crops and livestock and chickens and my job after I got old enough was to take care of the broilers and so I fed chickens as a kid. I went to Montevideo High School. Early on I was in 4H and then when I was in high school I was involved in FFA and went through that program. I think I got a State Farmer degree from FFA.

Ren: What does your mother and father do?

Gerald: They were both farmers. They were all -- where I grew up was in the 2:00eastern part of Rockingham County, about eight or nine miles east of Harrisonburg. My dad farmed and they both were high school graduates from Port Republic High School which was no longer a high school when I was a kid. It had been consolidated into Montevideo High School, which is no longer a high school. It's now Spotswood High School, but anyway my dad farmed. Sometime probably in the mid-50s he started working for USDA as an engineer technician, and so I being the oldest boy of three boys and I had an older sister and a younger sister, but I sort of became the farmer and I did a lot of the farm work because my dad was working a day job. Of course my mother was a home person. She did not 3:00work outside the home. I don't know what the right word is.

Ren: Like a homemaker?

Gerald: A homemaker, thank you.

Ren: Did you have any brothers or sisters?

Gerald: Yes. I had an older sister whose birth year was 19... So let me back up. My mother's birth year was 1920. My oldest sister was 1940. I was '43, a brother in '47, another brother in '54, and a younger sister in '60, so my mother born in '20, my older sister in '40, and my youngest sister in '60. The brother that is the birth year of '54 and the sister of '60 were both Hokie grads. My older sister was a JMU grad, Madison College in those days and then the one brother did not go to college.

Ren: Your mother and father when you were born kind of coming out of World War 4:00II, do you remember any difficult times because of the era in which you were born? I know you were pretty young then. What are some of your earliest memories of that time period in American history?

Gerald: Yeah. Well I would start at the first grade in 1949 and I have a few memories before that on the farm. My grandfather and my dad I remember doing little chores before I went to the first grade for my dad and my grandfather and my grandfather also farmed and his farm was not contiguous, but it was one farm in between that. And so my dad when I was growing up farmed his home place and our home place, neither one of them very large acreage compared today to what people farm. You know I just remember when we put plumbing in the house.


Ren: A big deal, right?

Gerald: Yeah. I remember as a kid we had a pump and I remember my mother giving me baths in a big old kitchen sink with a hand pump, and sometime, and I don't remember what year we got plumbing in the house and a bathroom, having to go out to the outhouse, so I do remember those days. Difficulty, you know my better memories are in the 50s and growing up on the farm, so what I do remember is work and I learned how to work.

Ren: I was going to ask you, growing up on a farm, and I have interviewed a lot of people kind of from this era that grew up on farms and were feeding chickens and herding cattle and things, and the life lessons that individuals seem to take from that is something I don't think that my children or a lot of kids will experience in today's world.

Gerald: Yeah. What you learned is you had a responsibility and you were expected 6:00to perform, and so it wasn't something you questioned. My sister had her responsibilities because we always had a few cows, milk cows, and so she milked and I fed chickens. I don't remember because we were separated my multiple years my two youngest siblings I don't remember what their responsibilities were. Probably didn't have some of the same kinds of expectations that my older sister and I had an my brother that's four years younger than I had, because he also helped farm. I remember my mother always saying he would go out and whatever he wanted to do, he went out to -- left the house and when he came back he needed a bath and she said...when I came back I was pretty clean, so I didn't need a bath but he would just walk out the house and when he came back he needed a bath.


Ren: Yeah. It's hard work. I can't imagine. I have two boys and just thinking about them -- not a chance.

Gerald: You learned about responsibility and you also learned about being functional, on time, getting things done on time. I remember as a kid, as I became a teenager my dad said, "I don't care when you come home but I know what time you will get up."

Ren: Wow. What time was that usually?

Gerald: At 5:30.

Ren: Oh good Lord.

Gerald : Yeah. And we would go do our chores and then we would have breakfast.

Ren: You mentioned your siblings who attended college and obviously yourself as very successful and your academic career. What role did education play in your home growing up?

Gerald: Well my mom and dad both were high school grads and we -- so I will 8:00simplify this by saying we get lectured every morning at breakfast about the need for an education. My dad would always say, "Because I grew up in the Depression I didn't have an opportunity to go to college and you kids are going to college." And so four of five of us went to college and the four of us that went to college all four of us have at least a master's. I'm the only one that has a doctorate, but all four of us had master degrees as a minimum.

Ren: Wow. What were some of your favorite subjects in school?

Gerald: You know -- history. I liked history. That was probably my favorite and that's probably how I got involved in soil.

I had an FFA teacher, a Tech grad who passed away a couple of years ago now, but he was a young teacher at the time, and I remember probably about my sophomore year we went on a field trip and we were looking at soils at the foot of the 9:00Massanutten Mountain, the peak if you are familiar with that area. We were looking at soils and he described how these soils had -- their history, I will use that word, genesis is the technical word, but how their history they had been formed from sediment that had moved downslope. He talked about that in terms of a historical perspective, not in a person's history but in terms of geologic history. That really got me excited about soils and I remember for FFA I did a public speaking and it was about soils. But I tied that together with history and so actually the area of specialty that I went on for my advanced 10:00degrees was in pedology which is about the formation and development of soils rather than the fertility area or the physics area or whatever, so it brings together the physical, chemical, and biological properties of how soils are formed and how they are developed and that's the area that I ended up doing my degrees in. But you know I probably wasn't a very good student. I didn't make straight As. I remember that math was not one of my favorite subjects, but even when I was at Tech math was not one of my favorite subjects.

Ren: So when you were in high school and you maybe started thinking about college how did Virginia Tech come into your life?

Gerald: Well that's an interesting story because the first thing in my high school graduating class there were 99 students and I was the only one that came to Tech. So why did I come to Tech? Well one because of agriculture, although in 11:00those days I didn't understand land grants and the history of the land grants universities. They were started in 1862 by President Lincoln's signature off of Justin Morell the Senator from Vermont pushing to get the land grants or getting colleges for the sons and daughters of the working class. I didn't know any of that at that time, but I knew they had agriculture here and I knew they had a soils program in the Agronomy Department, but why did I come to Tech? Why did I chose that? When I grew up on the farm my dad worked. My next brother was four years younger and I was looking at local colleges. My sister had gone to Madison College and there is Bridgewater and there's other colleges in that area and so I was looking at those.


My mother one day said to me, she said, "Gerry I don't want you to go to Madison. I don't want you to go to Bridgewater. I won't you to go somewhere else," there was just VPI in those days, and she said, "Because if you stay here I'm concerned that 1) you won't finish college and 2) you will end up spending all your time here farming. So I want you to go away." So my mother really influenced me to apply and come to Tech. She saw things in my in my future potential I guess that I didn't recognize. And we had a friend whose daughter was dating an individual that had come to Tech in the Corps and he spent a quarter or two here and dropped out and he would tell these tales about all the physical and mental harassment, but that didn't faze my mother. Unfortunately I 13:00never went back and really visited with her about that, but I just remember the conversation, she saying, "I want you to go somewhere besides local college because I don't want you to end up just farming and not finishing college and completing that.

I think I applied at University of Maryland and maybe NC State, again because I knew they had agricultural programs and soil programs, but obviously in those days I don't remember out of state tuitions like they are today, but anyway, I ended up coming to Tech. I did know they had a Corps because of this friend's daughter who was dating a guy that had come here and so I knew they had a Corps. And a couple, we had from Montevideo High School there were some other individuals a couple of classes ahead of me had come to Tech and actually a friend was two years ahead of me. I played basketball in high school and when he 14:00was a senior I was a sophomore and he had come to Tech and had been successful. Plus as I said earlier my ag teacher, John Long, both he and his brother both were Tech grads, had got their commissions, done their active duty and both had come back and taught vo ag. I guess as I think back between my mother and my ag teacher John Long that was probably the influential reasons for coming to Tech.

Ren: It's amazing how much insight you realize as you get older in life that your parents had on you. It's unbelievable.

Gerald: And teachers, key teachers. You know I can remember a couple of my teachers from high school and John Long was one of those that obviously was a major influence on decisions I made at that young age.


Ren: I want to ask you about your first memory of Virginia Tech. Do you remember what the campus looked like, how you felt? Any memories that really stick out from that day or that time?

Gerald: Well the first time I came to Tech when I was still in high school and [Boys] State and I was a delegate to [Boys] State. I don't remember a whole lot about that experience. I just remember we had a social with Girls State who was at Radford at the same time and we had some kind of social with them. I remember we had to have white pants and my mother got me a pair of white pants and I remember that. But probably my other memory of Tech when I was in high school I played basketball and when I was a sophomore we made the state tournament here 16:00in the old gym. That was a visit to Tech.

Ren: This War Memorial Gym?

Gerald : Yeah, the War Memorial Gym. We played there for the state tournament for basketball and we ended up third and we got the sportsmanship award, and so I remember that. This individual I mentioned that was two years ahead of me who came to Tech that was his senior year, and so I wasn't on the first team but I was at least on the team and so forth. Then the other experience we came down and my mom and dad brought me down in the summer to buy our uniforms and so I remember that experience coming down to buy the uniforms. I had a friend, I don't remember how I knew this individual, when we came down in and the fall 17:00quarter started in the middle of September and we came down. He came by my house and picked me up a couple of days ahead of time because he had relatives near Bland, Virginia which is what -- Wise County? He had relatives down there and he wanted to come down and visit them and so this got me a ride to Blacksburg in September of 1961. I remember going down to Bland, Virginia prior to I-81 or coming down old US 11 and then going west and northwest. We spent maybe a night there and then came back up to Tech, so that was sort of my first memories of Tech, Boys State basketball tournament, coming to get my uniforms in the summer. My mom and dad brought me down and my dad helped me buy the uniforms and then 18:00that fall trip. Yeah.

Ren: What do you remember visually about the campus at that time? Does any memory really stick out in your mind?

Gerald: Not really. Yeah. I just don't remember visually. Yeah, it's sort of fuzzy. I just remember where we went to buy the uniforms was somewhere over near the old power plant. I don't know if that old power plant is still there, near the old power plant.

Ren: You mentioned this a little bit in talking about some individuals that you knew who had attended Virginia Tech, and we have heard this a lot from individuals who were in the Corps, is that first year in the Corps, the rat year, I'm sure there's lots of stories and things but what do you remember about that first year in the Corps, good and bad I guess you could say?


Gerald: Well, I had opted for the Army ROTC and for whatever reasons I was assigned to Air Force and I was over in I think Thomas Hall. My roommate was a junior, a guy by the name of Bob Mills, so it was rather interesting. Here I was a freshman and rooming with an Air Force junior and I kept saying, "I want to be on the Army side." It ended up one of -- who ended up being my roommate, his initial roommate, of course they assigned them alphabetically and his initial roommate had allergies for the wool uniforms, so he got a rash and all that and so he had to drop out. They finally, I don't know how long I was here, maybe a couple of weeks and they reassigned me over to Rasche Hall in Company E and I 20:00ended up rooming with Tom Otto and he was my roommate for three years. Those early years or that freshman year I just remember going to class, dragging right along the sidewalks. I think we had some rather interesting experiences that freshman year. I remember standing out one night really late in formation with our raincoats on. There was a guy who had an Honor Court violation and we drummed him out of the Corps and out of the university. I remember that kind of experience.

I think my winter quarter I was the ranking rat in Company E and I remember they had us in the whatever the commons room or room where they had us sitting on the 21:00floor. The sophomores had us sitting on the floor with our arms straight out with our backs against the wall and we were sitting there holding at attention with our arms stretched out in front of us and our backs against the wall on the floor. And as the ranking rat I remember saying, "Company E to the showers," and we all jumped up and sort of had a rebellion. When the sophomores got us under control they put us in our raincoats and they paraded us I don't know where all. They really gave us a rough time and I remember that.

And then during spring quarter we had a little more flexibility and the seniors would go down to the New River and there was a place down New River where they would partake of beverages. [Laughs] This friend who had had the allergy with 22:00the wool his brother was I think a Tech grad, but he had a little probably 1958 or '59 VW Bug. Remember the bugs? They are still around but in those days, had a little VW and so the three of us went down there. The seniors had invited us down I guess or at least they didn't run us away, we went down there and at that time I had never touched alcohol and I didn't then, but my roommate and this other fellow who had his brother's VW apparently... We had a cool, I do remember we had a cooler and coming down on Price Fork Road, that was in the old days when it was almost a single lane, no shoulders. It was paved if I remember. I don't think it was gravel. I can't remember. But anyway, coming back at night 23:00the fellow who had his brother's car, his name was bill, and bill didn't make a turn. He rolled it. I was riding shotgun. My roommate was in the backseat and when it rolled I got thrown out through a barbed wire fence. I have scars on my right thigh from that accident. I've got a couple of scars on top of my head and I had a broken front tooth. But the doctors or the nurses or whatever later said, "Did you play football?" I said, "Yeah," and they said, "Well you learned how to roll."

Anyway, my roommate was in the backseat and I remember, and I told this last night when we were telling stories, I remember later I said, "Tom did you get hurt?" He said, "No, other than I got the coolers -- took the skin off my knuckles." [Chuckles] The fellow Bill who was driving didn't get hurt either but 24:00I got thrown out of that VW when it rolled. The door popped open and I guess I was just lucky. I got thrown through that fence and like I said I got some scars from it. They took me to the infirmary and put some stitches in me and good to go, so some interesting experiences.

Ren: I want to ask you because we've heard, I don't know if it was the same time or maybe this happened often about the drumming of someone who had an Honor Court violation. Can you talk a little bit about the Honor Court during that time and how it was facilitated-student run and still is to my knowledge and kind of the importance of that?

Gerald: I think that was something that in orientation not only for all students 25:00but for cadets obviously that was really drilled into you the -- especially if you observed someone you were expected to report. If you observed someone that was cheating or plagiarism or whatever you were expected to report that. It was really something that just wasn't okay, we have an Honor Code. It was something that was really drilled into us and you know being specific, but it was foremost in your mind all the time. So having that experience as a freshman of seeing this other cadet being drummed out if you ever thought about doing something that wasn't appropriate that flashback in your memory.

Ren: That's terrifying.

Gerald: Yeah, so that was the only time that I ever remember that kind of event. I remember it was late at night and as a rat freshman it really really permeated the brain.


Ren: Do you know David Lowe?

Gerald: Yes. I know who he is, yeah.

Ren: Okay, I think it was either him or Sam Lionberger was telling us that story and they were one of the first folks that we've interviewed for VT Stories.

Gerald: So they told that same story?

Ren: They were telling a similar story and that it rained. They are a couple of years older so it probably was the same story, but even when they told us that two or three years ago I remember thinking that's terrifying.

Gerald: Well and the thing was they said, "This name will never," of the individual, "This name will never be mentioned again. His name is gone from the records." Now I don't know, but I remembered that as part of the ceremony that they said his name will never be mentioned again and associated with VPI.

Ren: Talk about sending a message.

Gerald: Yeah. So here you are as a freshman, you already are shaking in your boots so to speak or shaking in your shoes and you attend that kind of event. It wasn't something that like I said that's the only one I remember and the fact 27:00that Lowe and who was the other one?

Ren: Sam Lionberger.

Gerald: I remember that name too. I think Lowe was a junior probably.

Ren: Yeah. I think he was '63. I think Lionberger was '62 I believe.

Gerald: Yeah, he would have been a senior. He may have been even in, I think he was on staff, regimental staff. As a senior the regimental commander was a guy from Winchester, Waldo Kearns when we were freshman, so I remember some of those names, yeah.

Ren: One facet of VT Stories that we always like to talk to alumni about is the role of mentorship and advising that professors or instructors or whatever had on your time at Virginia Tech. Did you have any notable mentors or advisors that 28:00you can really remember names that were really influential?

Gerald: That's a great question. So my advisor in the Agronomy Department was a gentleman whose name was Mike Kips, Dr. Kips, and he had authored a book called Field Crops. I don't remember what area. I think just maybe general but he was my undergraduate advisor. Kips was an interesting guy. He never said much. You would go in and talk to him and he didn't say a whole lot. The professor that taught most of the soil courses during my sophomore and junior year was a guy by the name of John Pendleton and he was an interesting individual. I just remember some of us as undergraduates had concern about him. I don't remember what those concerns were, but I think he was the advisor to the Agronomy Club. But the 29:00professor that really influenced me to go on to grad school was an individual by the name of Sam Obenshain. So his grandson is a senator and I will tell you a little bit about. Dr. Obenshain's area was in...[ I was in...] morphology and actually he lived to almost 100 years old. He was great, but Dr. Sam as he was known really influenced me, was the reason that I went on to grad school. I took his course. He taught a 400 level course in genesis and morphology and you had a field exercise where you went out and actually, and I don't remember where it was at, but it was about 40 acres out here close to campus.

Part of that was what we call soil survey and we went out and mapped that. I 30:00remember out of his course, and there wasn't very many in that class and I got an A in that course and he told me, he said, "You're the only second person that's ever made an A in this course, and by the way the other guy was Miller also," which was interesting. But Dr. Sam as we called him he had a son who would have been Mark Obenshain's father who was running for governor or attorney general or whatever and when he was out campaigning lost his life. They were flying in a small craft and lost his life. They flew it into the ground.

But anyway, so when I was a senior Dr. Sam talked to me, we talked about going to grad school and he had recommended University of Tennessee, NC State, a 31:00couple of others, including Iowa State. But I decided I had some, just like students today I had some debts but not obviously at the same level that they have today. I was married between my junior and senior year so I had to have a car and my wife and I got a demo car, a '63 Chevy, and they had let me have it until I graduated just paying the interest at like 4% or something, which was not very much in those days. But anyway, so my wife and I we talked about it and I decided since I was getting a commission through ROTC decided to go on active duty, and so I did and then spent 32 months on active duty. So when I was deciding what to do, whether I stay in the Army and make it a career and we talked about that, but I really wanted to go back to grad school. So I wrote, in 32:00those days obviously it was pre-email, pre-texting, pre-everything, you had telephone and postal service, I wrote Dr. Sam and I said, "You know we had talked about grad school, where do you think?" I was in the Midwest, I was at Ft. Leonard Wood, he said, "You might look at..." I said, "Should I still look at UT, NC State or elsewhere?" And he said, "Well you're out there in the Midwest." I actually have that letter. He said, "You might look at North Dakota State and Iowa State." And in so many words without saying it he basically said, and these are my words and not his, I'm not sure if you are good enough to get into Iowa State, but that my challenge.

So I applied at North Dakota State, Iowa State, and maybe I was corresponding with Dr. Singer at University of Tennessee. I may have applied at all three of those, and North Dakota State actually turned me down. Iowa State accepted me, 33:00so I made the decision and we went to Ames and went to Iowa State. And when I walked in the first day into the department head's office the secretary there, Amy Groth, said to me, she said, "Oh you graduated at VPI. Did you know Sam Obenshain?" And I said, "Well yes, that's part of the reason I'm here," and she said, "Well I knew Sam when he was here doing his master's degree in the late 30s.

Ren: Wow.

Gerald: And so Obenshain he knew that I would pick up the challenge because when he said in so many words I'm not sure you're good enough to go to Iowa State, and I didn't know that obviously that he had done his master's at Iowa State back in the late 30s. Interesting.

Ren: Definitely. I want to get to your graduate work and obviously your military 34:00service as well. Can you talk a little bit about some clubs and organizations you were a part of at your time at Virginia Tech, specifically again the German Club and Block and Bridle and things?

Gerald: Yeah. So those were the three. German Club I was inducted I think when I was a sophomore because that's an induction by invitation. Block and Bridle and the Agronomy club, obviously the Cadet Corps. Those were probably the major things. I'm not sure if I was in anything else or not Ren.

Ren: Alpha Zeta?

Gerald: Yes, I was inducted in Alpha Zeta, right. Yeah, I forgot about that, Alpha Zeta, yeah.

Ren: What was the experience of being in especially German Club? I know German and Cotillion were kind of the two big ones here at that time, what was the experience of being in those organizations and what did you learn from them?

Gerald: I think some social graces from being in the German Club. Obviously 35:00growing up on a farm I was pretty isolated to the world so to speak. The German Club the teamwork, because we had formals fall, winter, and spring, and so the teamwork of doing the shadowboxes and all that. The working together we did those in the old Squires Hall. I guess that's still there, SAB.

Ren: Yeah.

Gerald: Squires. The bookstore was downstairs, so we always had our formals there in each quarter.

And the German Club again it was about integrity. It was about, and you know they have the G-e-r-m-a-n and I forgot what all those stood for, gentleman and so on and so forth, but that sort of introduced me to more of the social 36:00aspects. And I'm not sure if social is a good word but fellowship maybe. Block and Bridle because I took courses in animal science and animal husbandry or whatever they called it in those days and then Agronomy. I think I had some leadership responsibilities in the Agronomy Club if I remember back. I remember the American Society of Agronomy always recognized a student each year. I assume they were nominated by a faculty and I have a little plaque, a not very big one that I still have in my office on campus in Ames, a little plaque of being the outstanding student for the ASA Agronomy Club. And again, what you learn from those organizations was working together, teamwork, because it wasn't doing 37:00something as an individual but working together in teamwork, fellowship and social graces at least in the German Club. As I said I was married between my junior and senior year and my future wife, this fellow that I mentioned back from high school that was two years ahead of me he was married and lived on North Main just next to the high school. There were some apartment buildings there. There were homes but there was a two-story apartment building there. So my wife would come down or my girlfriend would come down and she would stay with that couple and go to the formals.

Ren: So to the question of formals and events like that, and you mentioned a few things already, but what are your favorite memories or experiences during your time here? Are there any ones that really stick out -- ring dances, or formals?


Gerald: Sure.

Ren: What are some good memories?

Gerald: Yeah the formals, the ring dance, worked together in Company E for homecoming to do some kind of exhibit or float or whatever. One thing I didn't mention earlier on was when we were freshman we played VMI on Thanksgiving Day. When I was a freshman I think we were the last class to ride the train to Roanoke on what did they call it?

Ren: The Huckleberry.

Gerald: Yeah, the Huckleberry. I remember marching somewhere down Main Street to the station, wherever it was at we marched down there and got on the train and rode the Huckleberry to Roanoke. I failed to mention that earlier, that was a memory too of Thanksgiving Day. I don't how we got there subsequent years or whether we took a bus. I assume we took a bus in but I think the Huckleberry when we were rats was our last trip there. I don't know, I got off on a tangent 39:00to your question.

Ren: So some favorite memories and then kind of on the flip side of that any difficult times? Any hard times during your career here?

Gerald: Yeah, I had a couple of issues with classes and academic performance. The associate dean in the College of Agriculture, I had a problem with I think chemistry and actually failed the class. And I remember him calling me in and doing a one on one and saying, "If you don't get this turned around you're going to be out of here," and I got it turned around. I don't remember what the issues were but I remember I had a problem with chemistry and I never did love math either. So some of those things were academic and I don't think I ever learned 40:00in high school how to study. I didn't have to, so one thing I had to learn when I came to Tech was how to study and how to comprehend.

Ren: When you were here in the early 1960s really a changing time in our American history through the civil rights movement. I'm well aware that Virginia Tech wasn't UC Berkeley or anything like that, but do you remember any activism going on around campus protests or sit-ins or anything like that?

Gerald: I don't remember those kind of activities. Yeah, I don't. Back to when I was either a freshman or sophomore I went to my first concert in Burruss Hall -- Peter, Paul and Mary and I remember that. That was the first concert I ever went to. But as far as protests I think we were ahead of that Ren. I don't remember. 41:00If they occurred they were oblivious to me. Yeah.

Ren: So this is one question we always like to ask and we will get on after this, if someone simply says the words Virginia Tech what's the first thing that you think of?

Gerald: Well positive. [Chuckles] Virginia Tech if somebody mentions that to me I guess I would say wow, that's a great institution. It's ranked high as a research one institution. They always make it in the top 30 or 40, and then a great football team. More recently been a great football team.

And the Cadet Corps that comes to mind, but when somebody just says, "Oh you 42:00graduated from Virginia Tech?" and I guess my reaction is and I am really proud that I'm a Virginia Tech grad. When I graduated from Virginia Tech and I went into the Army, of course we were VPI and I would say VPI and they would say, "Never heard of it. Never heard of it." People from the other parts of the country, unless they had grown up in this area and this area being Virginia or North Carolina or Maryland or whatever, but people from the Midwest you would say VPI and they would say, "Never heard of it."

Ren: Right. It might be a little different today.

Gerald: Oh yeah, obviously very much different today, obviously.

Ren: After you graduated in 1965 and you mentioned this a little earlier, you served on active duty for 32 months from 1965 through 1968, can you talk about 43:00your military service and kind of the ranks and all these things that you commanded and all this wonderful stuff that you've accomplished?

Gerald: Well I opted for artillery and ended up in air defense artillery, went on active duty on September 16th of 1965, went to Fort Bliss, Texas. I remember flying from I think Weyers Cave. I think I got on an airplane in the old days the props and we went to Atlanta. My roommate's Tom Otto's father was career military and he was at Fort Sam, Houston at the time. Tom was signal corps and I think he was already on active duty. I remember laying over in San Antonio and spending a day or night with his parents and then went on to Fort Bliss and went 44:00through officer basic at Fort Bliss. I was assigned initially to a Nike Hercules unit in New Jersey. This was in the fall of 1965 and this is when the build-up was going on in Vietnam, and about halfway through our course which was like we started in the middle of September and we graduated the Friday before Thanksgiving week, so whatever [00:44:47 link that was.] About halfway through we all had a change in orders and everyone that was going other than going to Korea ended up going to a training center to train basic or advanced individual training.

And so I ended being assigned, a couple of us in my class ended up being assigned to Fort Leonard Wood. I graduated. A friend of mine lived in West 45:00Virginia. He had a car and I rode home back to West Virginia and I was married then and so my wife and this guy Bill Oliver who rolled the VW, he was an engineer working on I-81. I don't know if he's working for VDOT, but I think so. He and my wife came over to the airport at Huntington, West Virginia and picked me up and we drove home back to the valley because we were living near Stanton at the time. Anyway, I had an uncle who had an old 1956 Ford and so my wife needed our car that we had got when we were still here. I bought -- paid $125 for a 1956 Ford and I drove that from the valley all the way to Fort Leonard 46:00Wood which is near Rolla southwest Rolla, Missouri. Drove out there, reported in and spent my, when I walked in they said, "Okay, you are going to the 1st Engineer Brigade," which is advanced individual training, training combat engineers. And so I ended up spending my career there with the 1st Brigade first as a training officer in a unit and then being on battalion staff and training operations and spent my career there. Our daughter was -- Betty, my wife was a RN. She graduated from Rockingham Memorial Hospital three-year program. She was an RN and she worked in General Leonard Wood Hospital. Our only daughter was born in September of '67, which was about the time that I was the ETS from 47:00active duty. And so knowing all that we extended until the following spring and so that's how I got my 32 months. Our little girl arrived and got her going.

And then we talked about staying on active duty and I even called officer personnel for I guess I was still, I don't know if I transferred to engineers or not, I can't remember, because that's what we were training. But I think I transferred to Corps of Engineers from air defense. So I talked to them about if I stayed on active duty what sort of programmed out.

Of course they were going to send me back to Bliss to update me on air defense and then I was going to go to Cam Rahn Bay and then come back and probably go to 48:00officer's advance and so on and so forth. So anyway we decided I wanted to go back to grad school and so we made the decision to leave active duty, and as I said earlier I had been accepted at Iowa State and so we moved up to Ames. Actually I had worked as a student trainee with the USDA and Soil Survey here in Virginia so I was on their roll as leave without pay. I talked to the people here in Richmond and I said, "Before I started grad school I really need some field experience and so they transferred me to Iowa and I got assigned for the first six months to a survey unit down in southwest Iowa. We actually located to that location in southwest Iowa and then I didn't start grad school until winter 49:00quarter which was December of 1968. We moved to Ames over Thanksgiving. Actually moved to Ames from southwest Iowa on Thanksgiving Day and started winter quarter the following Monday, December 1st of '68. Yeah.

Ren: So in 1971 you graduated with a Master's of Science Degree in Soil Science from Iowa State and then in 1974 a PhD from Soil Science from also Iowa State. After you graduated with your doctorate where did life take you after that?

Gerald: Well I was looking at faculty positions.

Ren: You knew you wanted to teach and do research?

Gerald: Yeah. I knew I wanted to teach and do research. Actually there was a new position being established in the Agronomy Department at Iowa State for an extension in soil survey for lack of a better... Land Use and Development was 50:00actually the title, and so I applied and competed and was selected for that position, so the rest of it is history. I spent the rest of my career there. Actually I came back to Tech a couple of times to look at positions here and interviewed, so when I went back to grad school I had the GI Bill. We had a daughter, and my wife was a nurse and she was working.

I had a good experience with the military, and so I looked at the Army Guard and made some contacts and got a position in the Army Guard starting in June of '69, so I had that break from about a year. I was assigned to the Army Reserve in their pool or whatever, but not in a unit. So I joined the Army Guard, the Iowa 51:00Army Guard in June of '69. When I came off active duty they were having accelerated promotions, so I had the rank of a captain when I came off active duty and was assigned to a headquarters unit and spent a couple of years there. Because of the engineers they had an engineer battalion in southwest Iowa and so I got assigned to that engineer battalion as a company commander and I did that for about three years and then went to battalion staff and then moved on from that back to central Iowa on staff positions.

Then in 1977 I was picked up as a personnel officer. I was still a captain but it was a major slot and so I was due for promotion and I got picked up on a brigade staff as a personnel officer and that unit was about 15 miles west of 52:00Ames, and so it was really close. And so that was an infantry brigade and so I spent the rest of my career in infantry and then commanded an infantry battalion, that brigade eventually and then the 34th Infantry Division.

Ren: In 1993 something pretty cool happened, major general.

Gerald: Yeah, I got promoted to major general.

Ren: You are the second general I've interviewed.

Gerald: It was interesting. Again, I had a colleague and sort of a mentor because we were both pretty much the same rank and we would work together. He was a full-time guards person and I had met him when I was assigned to the brigade there west of Ames and worked with him. And we worked together on a lot 53:00of issues roughly the same rank, but he was full-time and he moved on to be the chief of staff as a colonel, chief of staff of the Army Guard or of the Iowa Army Guard. We had the director of the Army Guard out from Guard Bureau out in the summer of '90 -- I have to think about this, maybe the fall of '92 or spring of '93 and I was a one star at that time assigned to state headquarters.

This colleague of mine said, "They are looking for someone as a position for the -- there's a position at Fort Mead for 1st Army and that position is a two-star slot and it's a deputy commanding general for reserved components. Would you be 54:00interested?" I said, "Sure, why not." And so he said, "We will get the paperwork in." He told the director of the Army Guard who was there for some kind of event, and this was during a social event before dinner that my colleague was telling me about this and I said, "Sure, why not." So they put the paperwork in and I was selected for that position and I moved in that position in at that time as a one-star. I was a deputy commanding general for maneuver for 34th Infantry Division. That was up in Twin Cities in St. Paul. And so we put the paperwork in and I was selected and so I was assigned as deputy commanding general, a two-star billet at Fort Mead and I worked with two really great three-stars, Lieutenant General Jim Johnson who when we did the Panama operation 55:00he took the division in and they parachuted in, Jim Johnson. And then the second guy, when he retired the second guy I worked for was a guy by the name of John Otchen. Both of those were West Point grads, really just topnotch individuals. I got mentored by both Jim Johnson and John Otchen.

And when the position opened up for the 34th Infantry Division there's a long history there. So if you go back to 1968 there were all these guard divisions and the Army reorganized in 1968 and they said we've got too many guard divisions and these are hangovers from WW2 and etc., etc., etc. And so the 34th Infantry Division was historically going back to 1918 or '17 was a historical 56:00division of Iowa, Nebraska, Minnesota, North Dakota and South Dakota I think. In 1968 when they reorganized they said, "We're going to take that division and we are going to deactivate it and we are going to stand up another division in Minnesota. And the reason they did it, and if you go back, this is before your time, if you go back to 1968 who was the Vice President of the United States with Lyndon Johnson, a guy from Minnesota named Hubert Humphrey.

So there was a political decision to deactivate the 34th, stand up a new division that had no war record from World War I or World War II called the 47th Division, division headquarters, and so the headquarters that was in Iowa was deactivated to a brigade, so it was called the 34th Brigade, 47th Infantry 57:00Division, and eventually 2nd Brigade, which I ended up commanding from '84 to '88. We had the 34th Infantry Division had a guy as a private who in Minnesota was in World War II and his name was John Vessey. And John Vessey ended up being chief of staff of the Army in the early '80s with Reagan. When John Vessey retired he said, even though he was a Minnesotan he said, "We need to get rid of the 47th," and these are my words, "We need to get rid of the 47th and reactivate the 34th." And so the 34th Infantry Division was activated for active duty on February 10, 1941. We uncased the colors on February 10, 1991 and re-established the 34th Infantry, and that was because, it's just interesting 58:00about people in the right places. So Hubert Humphrey deactivated the 34th and John Vessey retired chief of staff of the Army reactivated it. He just passed away this past year well into his '90s.

Ren: This is a question that I certainly don't know the answer to and maybe you do, how many individuals hold the rank of major general?

Gerald: Well the Army Guard has eight combat divisions, and so all those are commanded by major generals, so the 34th was one of those eight combat divisions. You have those positions as I was assigned to Fort Mead there's probably, I don't know, these are guard...there are probably eight or ten of those because all those major commands have a deputy for reserved components for an example. At the time in the early 90s when I was still active there was probably, and I don't remember, Congress had a ceiling on general officers. And 59:00at that time if I remember it was like 360 or 70, so obviously there's one-star, two-stars, three-stars, and a couple of four-stars, a handful of four-stars that was active and reserve and guard. I don't know what those numbers are today, but at any given time there's probably somewhere around 300-350 officers on active duty that are active either in the active component guard or reserve.

Ren: When you retired from the military in 1998 you were awarded the Army's Distinguished Service Medal.

Gerald: Right.

Ren: How did that feel? What was that experience like?

Gerald: Well part of that just went with the rank. I'm very proud of that 60:00because as you know you have the Medal of Honor and then you have the second highest star Distinguished Service Cross which is obviously combat related and then the Distinguished Service Medal which is for non-combatant, so some of that went with the rank. I felt I was pretty successful as a division commander.

I wanted to go back, so I was the first Iowan that came out of the Iowa Guard to command the 34th Infantry or that history I gave from 1968 when Iowa lost the division, the two-star billet, when they lost that and moved to Minnesota I was the first Iowan to be selected to command the 34th Infantry Division, or the old 47th Infantry Division from that history of '68 until I took command in April of 1995. The [01:01:40 Adjunct] General of Minnesota was an Air Guard guy, a really 61:00smart man, articulate, big-picture, and he told me he said, "Gerry," and how I was selected the [01:01:55 Adjunct] General rather of Iowa, Minnesota, Wisconsin, I think those three states, because we also had units in Illinois, but I don't think Illinois, I think it was those three states sort of were the panel for selection, so you had to apply. And because I had my doctorate and because I had been successful as a battalion commander and a brigade commander Minnesota agreed my [01:02:21 Adjunct] General in Iowa who had retired after 25 years of active service he really pushed me or pushed the other two [01:02:32 Adjunct] Generals to select me as the division commander. And so when I was 62:00selected I remember my first interview with the [01:02:40 Adjunct] General of Minnesota, he said, "All right Miller you've got three years and that's it." I said, "Okay sir." Even though he's a major general I said, "Okay sir." So I would have come out of command in March and he had a conflict in the month of March and so I got an additional month, so I went from March of '95 until April of '98, so I got 37 months out of him, and he was great.

One of the things that the division did we have an exchange program with the Norwegians and we do winter training. They bring a company over to Minnesota to Camp Ripley which is in central Minnesota and we take a company to Norway for 63:00winter training. He and his wife and my wife we went over and visited the Norwegians and our unit in Norway. We did that in March of '97. That was a wonderful wonderful trip where we got to take our spouses and so forth.

Ren: I want to ask you so your title Professor and Associate Dean Emeritus at Iowa State University, the former Director of Agriculture and Natural Resources, Extension and former project director for the Heartland Regional Water Coordination Initiative in Iowa. What I find so fascinating about your story and your history is you had this academic career with a [01:04:21 terminal] degree with the doctorate, and then also this distinguished military career being a major general, how in the world did you balance the two of those?

Gerald: Well and the simple answer to that is my appointment was Extension and Research and I had a dominant, about 80% Extension appointment, so the answer to 64:00that is I didn't meet classes Monday, Wednesday and Friday at 10 o'clock, if you understand what I'm saying, just using that, so I had a lot of flexibility with my schedule. Now if the Guard called me and said, "We need you tomorrow," I may not be able to do that. But if they said, "We need you two weeks from now to go to this training session or to go to this meeting or whatever then I could work my schedule, except maybe, as you may be familiar with the Extension here in Virginia winter is pretty busy because you're out doing workshops, training sessions, meetings, whatever. So January and February are really constraint, but other parts of the year you have a lot more flexibility, and so I was able to adjust my schedule. The last couple of years when I was division commander I probably spent 100 days a year in uniform.

Ren: Wow.

Gerald: Fortunately I had that kind of schedule, so when I retired in April of 65:00'98 I had interviewed for the associate dean position in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences at Iowa State and I was selected. I retired in April and I started that job May 1. Now as an administrator there was no way I would have been able to stay in the Guard.

Ren: Right.

Gerald: In fact, just as a sidebar, so I was 55 years old when I retired from division command and I wasn't necessarily ready to quit. At that time the joint chiefs had made a decision to put a Guard officer on as a deputy with the joint chiefs to develop some of that relationship between the Guard Bureau and the active component. Shelton was the Joint Chief General Shelton. He advertised 66:00that position and I applied because I wasn't sure if I was going to be selected associate dean because again it was an internal position. I spent all my career at Iowa State, so I applied for that and I was one of the finalists for that position. Now there was another guy that was a finalist I knew personally. I worked with him when I was at 1st Army, a guy by the name of Mike Davidson, a Kentucky guardsman. Shelton was special forces, bloused his boots. Mike Davidson, guardsman from Kentucky, special forces, bloused his boots, so when I saw who was competing I said, "I'm never going to win this one." So I called the dean's office at Iowa State and I said, "Has the dean made a decision yet on who 67:00he selected for the position?" The secretary said, "You're going to get a letter today asking you to sign-off and accept." I said, "Great," so I called whoever I called in DC at the Pentagon and I said, "I'm going to withdraw my name from that position." And Mike Davidson did get that job and he spent whatever, well Shelton was still chief of staff, joint chiefs anyway.

Ren: What a life, a career.

Gerald: But the flexibility I had with my faculty appointments the way I could spend that time, but after I went to administration there would have been no way. I knew that and that's one reason I just said I will just withdraw my name from that appointment. The other story I wanted to share with you, so my colleague in Iowa that ended suggesting I apply for the deputy commanding 68:00general 1st Army at Fort Mead ended up going to DC. He was chief of staff. He got promoted to a one-star. He went to DC with the Pentagon, with the Guard Bureau and ended up being selected as the director of the Army National Guard, and during the period he was in there they upgraded that from a two-star to a three-star.

His name was Roger Schultz and Roger, a farm boy from northwest Iowa and Roger Schultz had the longest tenure as the director of the Army National Guard. He had six years as director, and this was during the early 2000s when all the things were going on and the Army Guard was really getting cranked up for deployments and so on. Rog was extremely successful as a director as a three-star, so he made his third star by going into DC, a great guy. He is retired and lives in Annandale, Virginia. It is partly all about the network, 69:00both on the academic side and on the Guard side and it's about being at work.

Ren: That's awesome.

Gerald: Yeah.

Ren: Another kind of emphasis of VT Stories is there was a gallop survey published a few years ago about alumni having this affinity for Virginia Tech and how much they love Virginia Tech. We are like number one in comparison to a lot of institutions. Now that doesn't necessarily translate to how much they give to the University which we all of course know and in terms of the funding of higher education, but why do you think that so many graduates come back to reunions like Old Guard, give to the University in small and large sums? What do you think it is about Virginia Tech that inspires alumnus to be so committed and love their university in the way that I do and I think probably the way that you do?


Gerald: Virginia Tech was a life changer. It changed your life. It absolutely changed your life, and even though some of it as we talked this morning, some of those details are really fuzzy, but you know as I shared from growing up on a farm and coming to Virginia Tech it was a life changer and it put me on a whole different trajectory than I would have had. And obviously you don't know what you would have had if you had done something else, but it was a life changer. Whether Virginia Tech I would have stayed or wherever people go to college for most of us it's a life changer for you and it just opens your eyes. We have kids today they've never been, especially kids from rural areas they've never been 71:00more than 100 miles from where they grew up. Now from where I grew up in East Rockingham to Tech in those days before I-81 old US 11 there's about 150 miles. That was a long way from home. It was a three-hour plus drive in those days.

So the short answer to that is it's a life changer and wherever you go for higher education, especially if you go to a research one institution, which we are here and at Iowa State and you see what the graduates are doing you're just proud of it. You say not only did I go there, but think about all these other people that are changing the world. And because of Virginia Tech, because of Iowa State or because of wherever they went to school they are changing the world.

Ren: Have you been involved with anything on campus since you graduated and throughout your career? Do you come back often?


Gerald: My connection has been primarily through our 5 year reunions, Company E. I missed a couple early on because I was either in grad school or in Iowa or whatever. I don't think I made the 5 year and I maybe missed one after that, but then later on as you probably picked up from Dick we do -- Dick started this Christmas newsletter and so we've got 50-something issues of a Christmas newsletter. There was 21 of us in Company E class of 65. We've lost five members. Actually we had a co-op student who joined us. He was in the class of '64 but he was in our graduating class, but anyway he passed away this past year. So there was 21 of us really in Company E. I remember as a freshman, as a rat there was probably 55 of us and so 21 of us made us. Not all of us made it 73:00in four years but we all finished. Art McKinney who you may know, Art was a contributor, he was an architect student and five years, and a couple of others were five years. I think Dick did a master's before he left and whatever. So my tie back to Tech is through Company 5, our 5 year reunions. Our last one of course was in '15 when we had four overtimes [chuckles] and lost to Georgia Tech. I don't know if you remember that one or not.

Ren: Oh yeah, absolutely. I was probably there.

Gerald: I really and a couple of others really pushed to say, "Hey guys," our birth year was '43 except for one of us who was '44 and we're not going to be here forever, so we're brothers and we have our brotherhood and let's make the 74:00most of it while we can still physically do it. We have one fellow down in Big Stone Gap who is having some real severe health issues, wheelchair-bound, but other than that, a couple of them this week because it's sort of graduation high school, got grandkids or whatever and so they couldn't make it. One of our colleagues lives up at Harrisonburg, that was the reason he couldn't be here.

But that's my tie back. For a long time I was raising kids. When my wife and I told our kids we would pay for our college, so you know you have those things to do, but more recently I've been doing an annual to Company E to our scholarship. I assume you are aware we have a scholarship. I think Hal Schneikert told us last night there's probably about 60,000 in that scholarship, which is not very 75:00much given, but still there's only 16 of us. We didn't have any -- other than Art who had a business and passed his business on when he passed last year to his employees more of us were more routine careers. We didn't start a business or move into the high executive position in a private sector so we give as we can.

Ren: Thank you for that. As you've came back for these reunions and continued this close relationship which I really admire with your company because that doesn't always happen, Corps or non-Corps, just thinking about my own experience and then my brother's and other family members, you don't really stay in touch with your friends like you should. When you kind of look across campus in your 76:00experience being back here every so often what inspires you, and then on the flip side of that what concerns you about this University and its growth?

Gerald: Well what inspires me that I can say I'm associated with a top land grant university, so that's a short answer. What concerns me is the same thing that concerns me at all of our public universities is the cost and the student debt. I'm familiar with some of that having my career at Iowa State and kids graduating with 40-50-$60,000 debt. You know when I graduated here my debt was maybe $1,000 or $1,200, which I don't know what that relates to today, but I don't think it was 50 or $60,000. I don't remember exactly what my debt was but 77:00I had a small debt when I finished here. As an FFA kid I had projects. I had some income, so I had some money. And if I remember I think I paid for all my -- my mom and dad didn't pay for my tuition, and so if I remember I paid for that out of my savings or whatever and then what I had to borrow to pay for that.

And then my senior year I was married and my worked actually as a nurse. She and some other young nurses they drove over to Catawba which had a TB sanitorium. That stuck with her throughout her life. Every time she had a health issue that would come up in her records that she had worked in a TB sanitorium. [Chuckles] 78:00But anyway I think that's a concern. It's not just Virginia Tech. The other concern and Hal was telling us last night that Tech said I think he said 32,000 applicants for the freshman class and they can only take like 6,000. As a public university that concerns me because there's obviously a lot of top students that didn't get a letter of acceptance to come to Tech, and that concerns me that if we have that kind of demand and we can only accept 6,000 students what's the upper limit of a major research one university because of the physical facilities you have to have to accommodate students. Some of the big ten schools as you know have 40-45,000 students. So how do we address that? I'm aware that President Steger had started a campus in Northern Virginia, but I don't have a 79:00good idea coming from academia and being associated with a top notch university, I don't have a good answer for how do we accommodate students that have the potential. As Hal was saying last night the Admissions Office can look at the metrics, 32,000 applications and just look at the metrics, but what about the kids that really maybe not in those metrics, but have a great potential in terms of leadership, in terms of contributing to society and in terms of making an impact and don't get accepted Virginia Tech and maybe get accepted at a lesser university or college and will they be able to have the doors open. Because as I 80:00said earlier it's about the network. So you come out of Virginia Tech. You come out of Iowa State, you come out of any of these research one universities there's a network out there. As I said earlier when I graduated from VPI and went to the Midwest -- VPI, where is that? Never heard of it. But today Virginia Tech -- yes.

Ren: We always talk about with people about how now I don't know if I could get into Virginia Tech with kind of the levels in which you have to have in terms of GPA SAT scores.

Gerald: I would never be expected.

Ren: I'm not that old but thinking just 10 or 11 years ago, 12 years ago there was probably no way.

Gerald: And I know I wouldn't be able to get in because given my SAT scores and my high school record there's no way I would get into Virginia Tech today.


Ren: It's unbelievable. Thank you so much for being so generous with your time. I just have a couple more questions and I will let you go because I know there's some activities and stuff that you want to get to. I always preface this question with kind of a little introduction. We always like to ask this and it's just a question about not saying anything will happen or you are going anywhere any time soon, but what would you like people to know about you and what would you like to be remembered for?

Gerald: One word -- service. My whole career has been about service. That was branded right here when I came to Tech, Ut Prosim, and I'm still doing that. I did that with Iowa State. I'm doing it in retirement. I'm involved now in my local soil and water conservation district. I'm involved with our state 82:00association, got elected as, go to a state meeting and they find out a little bit about you in Michigan, which you know unknown. I went to Michigan, my daughter was there and grandkids were there and moved there in April of '13 and got involved with the local conservation district by being elected, appointed and then elected to the local board as a four-year term, currently now the chair of our local board. Go to a state meeting. They find out a little bit about you and the next year I'm elected as vice president of state association. That's all about service and that's what I'm doing in retirement. It's about service, so one word -- service. What did Miller do?

Ren: He served.

Gerald: In military civilian service.

Ren: Thank you. Last question, what does Virginia Tech mean to you?

Gerald: Everything, yeah, that we just talked about, how it changed my life. I 83:00have no idea what my life would have been if I had not come to Virginia Tech. Obviously I would have been... During that time I probably would have got drafted. If I had gone to a local college I would have got drafted. Whether I would have gone to officer candidate school, who knows. Whether I would have been selected to go to OCS, you don't know what would happen, so it was a life changer for me.

Ren: I will just say Dr. Gerry Miller class of 1965, thank you for your service to this country. Thank you for your service, everything that you've done. You are incredible. You have an incredible story and an incredible history. I was really excited. I'm glad that I called and we got to talk a little bit and I'm glad I got to meet you. I've heard your name before, so thank you so much sir for talking with VT Stories and I hope you have a wonderful weekend here at Old Guard. It's so nice to meet you.


Gerald: Thank you Ren. It's great to meet you and I'm pleased that I gave you a positive response yesterday as I went through the toll booth on I-77 and said, "Yeah, I can do that." Great.

Ren: Thank you very much.