When each of their grandchildren graduated from high school, Carl N. Miller Sr. and his wife, Isa, gave the new graduate a check for $500.
“That was a lot of money back in 1966,” recalled Theodora “Teddy” Lenderman of the gift she received. “But they wanted their grandchildren to be successful and get that education.”
Those checks became the seed money for what grew into the Miller family legacy of education and achievement, particularly at Indiana State University. Four generations of Millers have attended Indiana State, earning almost 20 degrees. Five other Miller family members also attended Indiana State, either for a semester or for summer school.
The Miller family is this year’s recipient of the Legacy Award, which was established in 2011 to recognize multi-generational Sycamore families who have shown continued interest in and support of Indiana State University. The Indiana State University Alumni Association will present the Legacy Award during halftime of the Sycamores’ Sept. 24 Family Day football game at Memorial Stadium.
“All four of my grandparents and both my mom and dad had college degrees and knew the importance of all of their children having college degrees,” said Carl “Chip” N. Miller III. “In our house it was never a question of ‘Are you going to college?’ It was just a given you were.”
Teddy and Chip’s mother, Theodora Kolb Miller, lettered in three sports while at State. She also was a member of Chi Omega and graduated from Indiana State University in 1942 with a bachelor’s degree in English education and physical education. She was a member of the Women’s Marine Crop during World War II and later taught English and physical education at West Vigo.
Born in 1892 in the small Indiana town of English, Carl N. Miller Sr. served in the Army during World War I. Like many soldiers, Miller seldom talked about those times. “I know he was a captain in the Army, but I’m not sure what his role was,” his grandson said.
At Indiana State, Carl Miller Sr. met Birch Bayh Sr., and the two became life long friends. After graduating from Indiana State in 1915, Miller Sr. joined the family real estate business — S.C. Miller Realty, which had been started in Terre Haute by his father, Samuel Charles Miller. The agency later became Carl N. Miller Realtors. Finding the love of his life, Miller married Isa B. Mullikan.
“She had her real estate license also but was mostly a stay-at-home mother to their three children,” Lenderman said.
Carl Miller Sr. was very active in the Indiana State Alumni Association, becoming its president in 1947. “He loved coming back to campus to help hand out awards to the students,” Lenderman said.
In his chosen profession, Carl Miller Sr. was one of the original seven founders of what is the Indiana Realtor Association. “He and six of his friends from all over the state founded the association,” Lenderman said. “He later went on to become state president of the Realtor Association.”
As the oldest grandchild, Lenderman has wonderful memories of her grandfather. “I spent many, many hours playing with him, listening to stories, taking walks with him through the woods and fields,” she said.
Named after his father and his grandfather, Carl Miller III received the nickname of “Chip” when he was a youngster. “My mom didn’t want me called ‘Junior’ or ‘Little Carl,’ so very early on she came up with ‘Chip.’ I have always used that name.”
As a youngster, Chip Miller loved to head to his grandparents’ nearby Terre Haute home. “Grandfather and grandmother lived very close to us, kind of across the ravine,” he said. “My grandparents lived in the country and always enjoyed the land. They had beautiful gardens and a large sprawling yard. That was also my first job — cutting their grass.”
When he grew up and began thinking about which college to attend, Chip Miller didn’t have to look far. “Growing up in Terre Haute and having a parent, grandparent, aunt, cousins, sister, etc. attend ISU, I saw first-hand what ISU was about,” he said. “I also had the opportunity between my junior and senior year of high school to attend summer honors at ISU and that was a great experience as well. I was fortunate to receive an academic scholarship at graduation to ISU which kind of made the decision easy.”
An important aspect of Indiana State he really appreciated was the size. “Large enough to have good programs, but small enough to have a more personalized approach to education. It was also the Larry Bird and Kurt Thomas era, which kind of put ISU on a totally different level than before,” Chip Miller said.
Although he knew he could follow his father, grandfather and great-grandfather in the real estate business, Chip Miller did not start working with the family company until after he earned his college degree. “My dad’s philosophy was that I had to have my degree if I wanted to work in the family business. I think that he didn’t want me to get started working and let school become an option. He also insisted that I work somewhere so it got me job experience outside of anything family-oriented.”
Now vice president of Newlin-Miller Realtors, Chip Miller and his wife, Lynda, live in Terre Haute where she also is a Realtor. “She has been a part of Newlin-Miller for 24 years,” Chip Miller said. “She started taking classes at ISU again last year to further her education.”
All three of his sons — Ryan, Eric and Evan — also attended Indiana State. Eric is now the fifth generation in the family real estate business.
As for Lenderman, her goal was to study at Indiana State to become a teacher. “Some of my best memories are of the speech team I was involved with. We would go all over the country participating in speech contests. We were a small group, so we got to know each other very well. Some of my fondest memories are of those trips and the dedicated faculty who helped us. Dr. C. Sue Davis was awesome and she is a good friend today.”
However, when Lenderman received her degree in education, it was not easy to find a teaching position. “When I graduated in 1970, teaching jobs were at a premium,” she said. “There were none.”
Newly married, Lenderman served as a substitute teacher for two years. Then she worked at the Indiana State library until her first son was born. When her library boss asked her to return four years later, she went and never looked back.
“After the library, I went to work at the University School. Then the university attorney hired me as his assistant. When he left, I moved into the president’s office as his scheduler,” she said. “And then he moved me into the events position. That is what I retired from earlier this summer.”
Working at Indiana State for so many years, Lenderman says she always looked forward to the annual Homecoming celebration. “I love the feeling of pride in the team and the floats. I love tent city — and it’s a hard event to do. Trust me. But I love all the pageantry. I love to see all the alumni return to see how things look. It’s just a great time for all.”
Lenderman and her husband, attorney Robert C. Perry, live in Greencastle. Both of her sons are college graduates. Jason Andrew graduated from the University of New Mexico and works in public relations for Albuquerque government. Benjamin graduated from Indiana State University in 2003 and is s Senior Sales Specialist for Eli Lilly. At Indiana State, Benjamin was a Rankin Outstanding Senior Award winner and a Gillum Award winner for academic and athletic excellence. He won the GOLD award in 2008 for Outstanding Young Alumni.
“He came to ISU because of the business school and he wanted to play football,” Lenderman said. “And he did both.”
When Miller Sr. died in April of 1980 at the age of 87, he had lived to see many in his family finish their college educations. “I was 22 at the time he died and was almost ready to graduate from ISU that May,” Chip Miller said. “If he were alive today, he would be extremely proud — not just because of the Miller legacy but even more so that so many of his children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren had seen the importance of higher education and that they had chosen such a fine institution as ISU.”
Carl Miller Sr. was a strong advocate for education, Lenderman said. “He believed it opened doors for both men and women … He was a kind and loving man and he loved his family so very much.”