Miller contributes 25 years to plant sciences, research and extensionWritten by Christy Hemken
Associate Dean in the UW College of Agriculture and director of the Wyoming Agricultural Experiment Station, Miller came to Laramie from North Dakota State University in 1984, beginning as an associate professor in the Department of Plant Sciences.
“I replaced Harold Alley in Plant Sciences shortly after I got here, and he was a renowned weed scientist and that’s what was attractive to me about UW,” says Miller. “He’d built such a good program.”
Of his switch to oversight of the Ag Experiment Station in 2005, Miller says he’s most enjoyed watching the upgrades to facilities and programs take shape over the last several years.
“The first and probably the biggest gratification of my career with the Stations is starting from ground zero with SAREC and building the facility we now have there,” he says of the James C. Hageman Sustainable Agriculture Research and Extension Center located near Lingle.
He also notes upgrades to the Powell Research and Extension Center, including a sprinkler system and moving the seed cleaning facilities north from Laramie. “At Sheridan we changed the emphasis of that station from dryland crops to horticultural, and we were also able to combine the animal science farm and greenhouse complex here at Laramie to form the Laramie R&E center,” he says.
The Laramie project includes upgrades to the greenhouse, a GrowSafe system for sheep fed at Laramie and a pellet mill so the university can put together its own formulations for feeding trials both in Laramie and at SAREC.
Miller adds, “We were very fortunate we were able to retain all the money from the sale of the Torrington and Archer stations, which was used to purchase the SAREC location.”
He notes the late Sen. Craig Thomas was also able to obtain a large federal grant of $900,000, which helped with a lot of the upgrades, and the state chipped in $500,000, which funded the wet lab equipment at SAREC.
“I really think we’ve got our stations on the right course,” says Miller of the progress. “I do think they had slipped somewhat, but I think we’ll continue to see upgrades and be able to address a lot of the Wyoming needs at these centers. We’ve now got the capability of addressing our clients’ needs.”
While Miller submitted his letter of resignation Oct. 21, he will continue with the university through January 21.
When asked what’s next, he says he finally did find a hobby after being a “workaholic weed scientist.”
“For the last 12 years my wife and I have been into antiques, and now we’re very avid antiquers and we like going to auctions,” he says. Although the couple collects a few of their choice purchases, the remainder is resold at Bart’s Flea Market in Laramie.
“This has been tremendous fun for us, and the only problem has been that I was restricted how far we could travel to auctions because I had to be back by Monday for work. Now our plans are to travel back East and get some of those antiques in places like Indiana and Pennsylvania,” he continues.
Returning to the subject of his time spent at UW, Miller says the greatest reward has been his graduate students, of which there have been 65.
“The greatest thrill is those graduate students I trained in weed science,” he says. “All are now gainfully employed with other universities or within the plant protection industry. They’ve all gone on to be successful in their careers.”
“Steve’s been a splendid leader and done a great job,” comments UW College of Agriculture Dean Frank Galey. “The college has been really well-served by Steve, who’s been willing to step up and take leadership of the program, which has covered a lot of ground in the last few years he’s been on board with the Agriculture Experiment Station.”
“Steve’s been a very productive faculty member in crops and weed science,” adds Galey.
Of Miller’s graduate students, Galey says, “I don’t think there are too many people who have mentored more graduate students than Steve. In terms of faculty time at UW, his leadership in mentoring graduate students is probably his hallmark.”
Galey says his success at the Research and Extension Centers has been two-fold. “He’s been very successful at getting SAREC built and staffed and getting more faculty involved in the R&E centers,” he says. “He’s been great leadership for the college.”
Galey says he’ll get started making a decision on Miller’s replacement immediately, and hopes to have someone in place by the end of the year.