Dan Miller was a middle school bookworm who couldn’t get enough of the library’s history section. “I loved reading history and books about the Civil War. In the summer, I would work through every book they had on the Civil War and other wars, so that’s kind of where my interest took off,” he said.
This interest led Miller to Westmont College for his bachelor’s in history in 1972, then his master’s in 19th century U.S. history in 1975 at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill. After three years of teaching high school and then getting his PhD in 1979, he received a phone call in 1983 from Calvin about a one-year teaching appointment. At the time, he hardly knew anything about Calvin or the Christian Reformed Church and had never been to Michigan. However, this one-year appointment gradually turned into a 32-year teaching career at Calvin in the history department.
In addition to Latin American and world history courses, Miller also taught in international development, the Entrada Scholars Program, and the CALL program, for older learners. He also directed the Washington, D.C., semester abroad last semester, as well as several off-campus interims to Latin America.
Although retired, Miller plans to lead off-campus courses in Cuba and Civil War sites.
In his free time, Miller loves kayaking, hiking, art gallery surfing and designing educational games. For his history courses, he designed various kinds of games that allow students to play historical characters and simulate the people, places and events they were studying.
Miller has been married to his wife Kate for 41 years, whom he met at Westmont College. His two sons, Nathan and Thomas, went to Calvin. Nathan tragically committed suicide after his last year at Calvin, which created a special sensitivity in Miller for struggling students. ““It’s made me try to be more sensitive to students and others, who disappear and stop attending,” he said. “I’m a lot more sensitive to the possibility that they may not just be lazy or distracted. There may be some underlying, serious problem that at the very least needs to be explored.” A maple tree by North Hall is dedicated to Nathan.
Miller hopes that Calvin will hold tightly to the vision of God’s Kingdom and the call of intellectual excellence. “Remaining faithful to the Word and remaining serious about our academic work have been hallmarks of this place as long as I’ve known it,” he said. “On the good days, they work in wonderful tandem, and on the bad days they threaten to tear this place apart. I hope the college never lets go of either one, or sacrifices either of them to the other.”