February 12, 2002 11:00 pm

By Dick Mason

Observer Staff Writer

Eastern Oregon Universitys next provost is not proving Thomas Clayton Wolfe wrong, but he is coming close.

Wolfe (1900-1938) is the American novelist who wrote You Cant Go Home Again.

John Miller, dean of the college of arts and sciences at Southeastern Louisiana University, is new to La Grande but not Oregon. He was born and raised in Eugene and graduated from North Eugene High School in 1964.

Miller and his wife Linda, who also is from Eugene, have lived in Arkansas and Louisiana the past 26 years. This has not diminished their feelings about the Northwest.

My wife and I have always felt close to Oregon. Twenty-six years is a long time to be away, Miller said Tuesday during a visit to La Grande.

Miller was named EOUs provost and vice president of academic affairs in December. He will formally be appointed to EOUs second highest administrative position on July 1.

Miller has served as dean of Southeastern Louisiana Universitys college of arts and sciences since going there in 1993. Previously he was a professor and an administrator at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock from 1976 to 1993.

At Southeastern Louisiana University, which has 14,000 students, Miller was only an hours drive from New Orleans and its annual Mardi Gras celebration, which was held Tuesday.

Miller said that living in the south has given him an appreciation for diversity.

It is a rich culture of tremendous music and food. ... It is a culture where people love life and live life to the fullest every day, Miller said.

The culture, though, ultimately made Miller miss life in the Northwest.

It made me appreciate my roots. It convinced me that I wanted to get back to Oregon, said Miller, who earned undergraduate and graduate degrees in sociology from the University of Oregon.

The Millers have two sons, Michael, 28, who is earning his doctorate at the University of Miami, and Kevin, 19, a student at Southeastern Louisiana University.

Rice farming

Land stewardship is among the projects Miller worked closely on in Louisiana and Arkansas.

He explained that farming communities in Arkansas have been hurt significantly by soil erosion. One reason is that corporations have purchased many family farms in the South.

The corporations, looking for short-term profits and not long-term sustainability, have not cared for their land the way family farmers do.

They were not guided by the same ethics as family farmers, Miller said.

Miller has worked closely on soil erosion and damage issues with state agencies, the Environmental Protection Agency, the National Science Foundation and other organizations.

Many of the farms Miller has worked with grow rice, a leading crop in Louisiana.

At Southeast Louisiana University, Miller has worked hard to promote service learning. In the program students earn credits while doing internships which help the community and society. He is pleased that EOU also has a service learning


A good case of service learning involved a program that linked EOU and Southeastern Louisiana University in 1997. That year eight EOU biology students went to Louisiana to help SLU with a cypress tree planting project. The students did their work at a wildlife refuge.

Miller said projects like these are the type he hopes to promote at Eastern.

Miller will succeed Bruce Shepard, who served as Easterns provost and dean of academic affairs for six years. Shepard left in November to become chancellor of the University of Wisconsin at Green Bay. A chancellor of a state university in Wisconsin is the equivalent of a university president in Oregon.

Burr Betts, a professor of biology at EOU, is serving as interim provost until July.