Professor Emeritus Jim Miller leads a campus tour in 2004.
Professor Emeritus Jim Miller leads a campus tour in 2004.

“Then and Now” – A Reminiscence About Chapman University by Professor Jim Miller

Professor Emeritus Jim Miller leads a campus tour in 2004.
Professor Emeritus Jim Miller leads a campus tour in 2004.

Beloved professor Jim Miller, who passed away on November 11, 2015, penned this essay about his life and times at Chapman in 2003, shortly after announcing his retirement after 47 years of teaching at the University.  We reprint it here in his honor.

In June 1956, I arrived at Chapman—and have been teaching here for 47 years. That’s longer than the majority of the present faculty have been alive. When I began, Dwight Eisenhower hadn’t begun has second term. Then, Chapman was a “gift supported, Christian, four-year Liberal Arts college.” Not surprisingly, the Chapman College with which I started is a bit different from the Chapman University from which I have just retired!

Back then, students took courses one at a time in six week blocks. There were six such blocks each year, each block being worth five credits. Classes began at 8 a.m. and ended at Noon with a “break” between 9:30 and 10:30, except for Tuesday when we had mandatory Convocation, to which we invited outside speakers, and on Thursday there was mandatory Chapel. Chapman in those days was very much a Disciples of Christ college, and most of our students came from that denomination. In fact, all students had to take survey courses on the Old and New Testaments.

We had many fewer buildings than we have now. Of course, all five buildings on the National Register of Historic Places were around, though we mostly knew them by other names: Smith Hall was the Science Building, Memorial Hall was the Administration Building, Reeves Hall was the Art and Education Building, and Roosevelt Hall was known as the Home Economics Building and Dining Hall (later called Founders Hall). Wilkinson Hall, the oldest building on campus, was known by that name when I arrived. DeMille Hall was a bus barn—then a Student Union. There was a maintenance facility where the Thurmond Clark Library now stands (or stood by the time you read this piece). Our gym, which we called The Box, was located where the Hutton Sports Center now sits. The stadium with its bleachers was around then.

READ the Chapman Happenings tribute to Jim Miller — and share your memories here.

Poster for Jim Miller's retirement celebration at Chapman University in 2004
Poster for Jim Miller’s retirement celebration at Chapman University in 2004

We did have a library, though it was considerably smaller than the present (or future) one. It was located on the second and third floors of Memorial Hall where the Business Office is now housed. One of the most memorable campus features was a prominent gas pump in the middle of what is now the Quad.

Dorms? We did not have them in 1956. Girls stayed either over the Orange National Bank (now gone) on the “Circle” or at the large house that still sits on the corner of Palm and Olive. Various houses were leased around town for the boys. Dining facilities were located on the first floor of Roosevelt (Founders) Hall. Thursday night was “dress up” dinner. I can still remember our Cook, Mrs. Barbre, who was famous for her rolls. Basketball was our only serious inter-collegiate sport, so we had our Homecoming weekend in the Spring. Unfortunately, The Box was so small that players had to be careful they didn’t hit the wall when making lay-ups.

Much has changed in the last 47 years. The World Campus Afloat has come and gone, and we have become a much larger and more diverse school. But one thing hasn’t changed very much: The Chapman spirit. There is still a very special something about this University which almost half a century of history has not dulled or tarnished, and which I will sincerely miss and forever treasure.  — Jim Miller, 2003


Mary Platt

Mary Platt is director of the Hilbert Museum of California Art at Chapman University

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