SHERM MILLER: IN HIS WORDS
“All the world is divided into two people —newspaper people and other people.”
“Backward runs the sentence, till forward reels the mind.”
“Tolerance is giving the other guy the right to be wrong.”
“Good copy editors make a paper. Bad ones wreck it.”
“If anybody had called me a journalist, I would have slugged him. I’m a newsman.”
“The Wildcat is truly the living history of the University.”
"What a gang, What people. What a job I’ve got.”
— Courtesy of "Life and Times with Sherm Miller," a 2004 Arizona Daily Wildcat book of memories by his former students.
Sherman R. Miller 3rd’s impact and influence on and contribution to the University of Arizona’s School of Journalism cannot be overstated.
He came to the program in 1959, bringing with him years of news experience: reporter and editor at the Detroit Free Press in the city where he was born; rewrite man at The Associated Press; executive positions at the Philadelphia Inquirer and Chicago Sun; bureau chief at the New York Journal-American – and finally as a copy editor at The New York Times, where he also excerpted and edited, for newspaper use, parts of two books written by former President Truman.
“I got my Ph.D. in journalism on The New York Times,” he joked.
Under Professor Miller, the Journalism Department first became accredited in 1964. He led the Arizona Daily Wildcat – then part of the department – from publishing three days a week to four days a week and finally to five days a week, making it the fifth largest daily in Arizona.
His talents and abilities did not go unrecognized. In 1964, the UA’s senior men’s honorary named him the outstanding male faculty member. In 1966, Esquire magazine named him one of the 33 “super-profs” in the country. For the 1967-68 academic year, he was awarded a Fulbright lectureship at the University of Ankara in Turkey.
In January 1968, while in Turkey he contracted a sudden and serious infection and died less than two weeks later – to the absolute shock and disbelief of the students who loved him.
Professor Miller clearly thought that being a journalist was the best possible job in the world. His exuberant love of and enthusiasm for the profession quickly inspired his students, who could hardly wait to graduate and begin work as journalists. His goal for his students, however, was not simply get a job; it was "get it right" and inform the public. He was an ardent believer in watchdog journalism.
He had no tolerance for inaccuracy. He started the school’s “Auto E” rule, still upheld today. A brilliantly written story with one misspelled name would get a failing grade – no exceptions.
A great professor’s influence on his students does not end with their graduation. And so it was with Professor Miller. Even now, when his former students get together, he inevitably becomes the center of conversation at some point.
"He thrived in the role of teacher and mentor," said Chris Miller Loidolt, one of his daughters. "Since I was a student living on campus during my dad's final years, I was fortunate to be able to hear many 'Mr. Miller' stories from his students.
"A favorite was the day he calmly came into class, got up on one of the desks, did the twist, got off the desk, and asked his students to write about what just happened. Many were too flummoxed to be able to write a coherent story!"
Sherman R. Miller III was only 57 when he died. The Journalism Department was fortunate to have had him. His legacy is significant and lives on in the many students he taught and mentored.
— Nann Durando, '66