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For project manager, new science center is personal

A family structure


Managing construction of the College’s $43 million science center is more than a job to Paul Miller ’87.

“It’s a wonderful project. It’ll be a cornerstone.” — Paul Miller

• • •

It’s doubtful that any of his fellow freshmen knew the campus as well as Paul Miller did when he enrolled at Carthage.

Whether eating cheese popcorn while cheering on the sports teams, sledding down the hill toward what’s now Augie Schmidt Field, watching fireworks from the Trinity House lawn, or swimming at the former Seidemann Natatorium, he made the campus his childhood playground. His father was the late Professor R. William Miller, and the family lived a short bike ride from the College on 17th Street.

Paul Miller’s background makes it especially fitting that he will lead the construction of a new Carthage science center. He’s a senior project manager with Riley Construction, the Kenosha firm that is managing the $43 million project.

The project features a major renovation of the 70,000-square-foot David A. Straz, Jr. Center for the Natural and Social Sciences and a new 35,000-square-foot wing. It will increase classroom and laboratory space by 40 percent, providing state-of-the-art facilities for study in the natural sciences and new ways for collaborative research between students and faculty.

While Paul is invested in every construction project he manages, he acknowledges this one is infused with a stronger dose of pride. With an accounting degree, he was one of three siblings to graduate from Carthage.

Now the family’s strong ties to the school have entered a third generation. His son Ryan ’16 and daughter Rachel ’18 are current students.

“For me, it’s not only making sure the classrooms are open for the College,” Paul said. “You can’t get more personally involved than that.”

Majoring in biology, Ryan likely will spend time in the transformed science center during his senior year. He teases his dad that the construction should have come a few years earlier.

“It would have been great to come here to a shiny, new science building,” Ryan joked.

Although she isn’t considering science majors, Rachel figures she’ll at least pass through the building on the way to class or Starbucks. She chuckles that her father’s role makes her feel like a minor celebrity on campus.

Both siblings said it was a given that Carthage would top their college wish lists. Rachel has happy childhood memories of the place, including an annual fall tradition when her grandmother would arrange a photo by Bill’s memorial tree. The sweetgum tree stands in a small grove in front of Hedberg Library.

“I’ve been here so much from being little that, if I didn’t come here, it’d just feel wrong,” Rachel said.

Her brother has more substantial memories of their grandfather, the revered faculty member who died in 2000. Ryan requested “the college books” from Bill as a young boy, long before he needed to shop at the Carthage bookstore.

“He used to read me encyclopedias, because I didn’t like the regular stories,” Ryan said.

After joining the faculty in 1965, Bill Miller founded the Geography Department and taught for more than 30 years. He was honored with the Distinguished Teacher of the Year award for 1989-90 and the Carthage Flame in 1999.

The appreciation was mutual. For evidence of his devotion, no one had to look farther than the fenders of his car. Bill ordered “CCW 150” license plates to commemorate the College’s sesquicentennial.

“It was everything to him,” Paul said. “He lived, breathed, and died Carthage.”

As the R. William Miller Distinguished Professor in the Natural and Social Sciences, Kurt Piepenburg ’77 holds the faculty seat that honors his mentor. An introductory course with Bill in the mid-1970s convinced him to switch his major from biology to geography.

“He managed to integrate everything,” Prof. Piepenburg said. “He was one of those Renaissance people. You began to see connections you didn’t always see.”

Bill Miller’s research had highly practical applications. Focused on transportation logistics, he served as a consultant to McDonald’s, Commonwealth Edison, and several local companies.

“I see a lot of Bill’s traits in Paul,” Prof. Piepenburg said, including the ability to synthesize information and anticipate challenges. “And I think they’re what you want in a project manager.”

Paul said the timetable remains on target for the building to open before the fall 2015 semester. The building additions were weathertight by the end of October, and mechanical systems are being brought online as the interior takes shape.

Carthage officials say the building will rank among the most advanced undergraduate science education centers in the country. It will offer 12 new interdisciplinary laboratories, collaborative learning areas, outdoor classrooms overlooking Lake Michigan, and many other student-focused amenities.

“It’s a wonderful project,” Paul said. “It’ll be a cornerstone.”

  • Quick Facts

    • Carthage is named a Best Midwestern College by The Princeton Review (2021), a designation given to only 25 percent of four-year schools.

    • The Tower, Carthage’s newest residence hall, provides some of the best views on campus — if not in the Midwest! In addition to #carthageviews of the lake from seven stories up, residents enjoy suite-style living and two floors of shared campus spaces for gaming, cooking, group meetings, or quiet studying. Learn more about all housing options.

    • You’re going to need brain fuel. Grab a morning coffee and a snack and Starbucks or Einstein Bros. Bagels. Later, meet friends at “The Caf,” where the specials change daily but the staples are constant, or swing through “The Stu” for wings, a burrito, or a sub. A new option, Carthage Cash, even covers some off-campus meals.

    • More than 90% of Carthage alumni report that they have secured a job or are continuing their studies six months after graduation. Visit The Aspire Center.

    • 91% of employers say critical thinking, communication, and problem-solving skills matter more than your major when it comes to career success. Learn more about how the liberal arts prepare you for a successful career.

    • Lots of schools wear the four-year label. Carthage stands behind it. More than 90% of Carthage graduates earn their degrees in four years. Learn more

    • Oscars. Emmys. Tonys. Golden Globes. The playwrights we’ve brought in have them. Each year, the Carthage Theatre Department commissions an original script by a renowned playwright for its New Play Initiative. Carthage students then work with the writer to stage it. 

    • Carthage has ranked as a top Fulbright producer for four of the past five years. Read about Carthage Fulbright winners.

    • Things look new at Carthage because they are. Our science center, student union, athletic and recreation center, and numerous residence halls have all been constructed or newly renovated in the last 15 years.

    • Carthage offers majors, minors, and concentrations in more than 50 areas of study, from marketing to neuroscience, nursing to music theatre.

    • Our Summer Undergraduate Research Experience offers select students a research budget, one-on-one mentoring with a professor, and 10 weeks of analyzing, deciphering — and getting paid.

    • So the lake is kind of a focal point, but there’s a lot more to love about our campus — like the fact that our more than 80-acre campus is also an arboretum and wildlife sanctuary. Focused on keeping campus lush forever, we plant between 50 and 75 new trees every year from a variety of species.

    • Carthage was founded in 1847. That’s more than 170 years of leaders, makers, and go-getters going out and going forth. Read more about Carthage’s rich history.

    • More than 90 percent of students receive financial aid. Carthage awards more than $20 million in scholarship and grant assistance. That includes $5.5 million in competitive scholarships in business, mathematics, science, languages, the fine arts, leadership, and overall academic strength. Learn what’s available.

    • Abraham Lincoln was an early Trustee of the College, and U.S. Secretary of State John Hay was a Carthage alum. The two still have a proud place on our campus. Spend some time with them in our Sesquicentennial Plaza. On warm days you’ll find professors leading their classes here.

    • Come to Carthage; hear yourself think — think … think …
      Legend has it that Sesquicentennial Plaza holds a perfect echo. Just stand with both your feet on the “1847,” face Straz, and start talking. “You’re the only one who can hear you, but you’ll be crystal clear,” promises English and theatre alumna Mikaley Osley.

    • Our Great Lake provides Carthage students with some amazing views. Think classes on the beach, lake views from the lab, and sunrises from your dorm room. “I love waking up in the morning with the sun shining off the lake. Nothing compares to the view in the morning,” recalls biology and neuroscience major Ann O’Leary.

    • Carthage awards up to 35 Presidential Scholarships each year, which range from $25,000 up to full tuition. Learn more.

    • For a full decade, NASA has selected Carthage students to conduct research aboard its zero-gravity aircraft. Lately, the stakes have risen. A team of underclassmen is grinding to prepare a tiny but powerful Earth-imaging satellite for launch to the International Space Station. Learn more about the space sciences at Carthage

    • Carthage is the only college or university in the Midwest where every freshman takes a full-year sequence of foundational texts of the Western intellectual tradition. Learn about Intellectual Foundations.

    • With a student-faculty ratio of 13:1, your professors will know who you are. They will also know who you want to be — and how to get you there. Meet our faculty.

    • There are more than 130 student organizations on campus, from Amnesty International to Fencing to Frisbee, Chem Club to Stand Up Comedy. See how easy it is to get involved.

    • True story: There are more than 27 art galleries, a dozen museums, and nine theatres within 25 miles of Carthage. Some highlights: The nationally recognized Racine Art Museum, the world-renowned Art Institute of Chicago, and the Milwaukee Art Museum. Learn more about our location.

    • What’s better than one professor? Two professors. What’s better than two professors? Two professors from totally different fields teaching a single class. There’s debate. Discussion. Differing perspectives. This is where the magic happens. That’s why every student takes a Carthage Symposium.

    • You can’t hide here — not with only 17 other students in the classroom with you. That’s going to be rough some mornings. But later, when you’re able to argue your point of view thoughtfully, express your opinions succinctly, and meet challenges head-on, without fear … Yep, you’ll thank us.

    • Carthage is ranked in the Top 5 in the country for student participation in short-term study abroad. Every J-Term, hundreds of students travel all over the world on faculty-led study tours. Imagine a month in Sweden, Rome, Cuba, Senegal, India, Japan …