Emeritus geology professor dies of heart failure at 80

Anna Duszkiewicz

Freshwater mollusk expert had been with Kent State for 44 years

Barry Miller, emeritus professor of geology, died of heart failure Feb. 29 at the age of 80.

Miller had a “continuous enthusiasm for knowledge that was infectious,” said Donald Palmer, chair of the department of geology.

Palmer said Miller was completely his own person.

“He was secure with himself and felt at home anywhere,” he said. “I’ve seen him dressed in his field togs, covered in mud and able to address people just as if he were in a tux. He was a fabulous man.”

Miller joined Kent State in the fall of 1964.

He served as professor of geology for 32 years until he retired at the age of 68 in 1996.

Richard Heimlich, geology professor and colleague of Miller, said he was a bright person with a lot of ideas.

“He had a knack for stimulating people, and he was always willing to shake up the status quo,” Heimlich said.

Miller was an active researcher and a well-respected expert on freshwater mollusks, primarily land snails.

“He was perhaps the world’s expert in this field,” Palmer said.

“When people found odd things in China or Italy, they’d always contact him and send him samples,” he said.

Geology professor and colleague Alison Smith said he was an authority in his area of expertise.

“He’d been emeritus for years, but we’d still get requests from people wanting him to look at things because he was an expert in the field,” Smith said.

Palmer said he wrote numerous papers with him. Much of the work the two did together was about changes in snail distribution throughout the ice ages.

“It’s a good indicator of environment because when an area is covered in ice there aren’t any snails, and in effect the snail population is overrun and then re-establishes itself,” Palmer said.

Palmer said he, Smith and Miller did a lot of fieldwork together.

“We were great pals,” he said.

Smith said they had all kinds of field adventures in wetlands and lakes.

“Barry was loads of fun,” she said. “I don’t think I have ever had so much fun doing any type of field course as I had team teaching with him.”

Miller was cremated, and his family is planning to have a memorial service for him sometime in the spring. They asked not to be interviewed for the story.

“He was an excellent colleague, and we will really miss him,” Smith said.

Contact College of Arts and Sciences reporter Anna Duszkiewicz at [email protected].