The longest-serving president in the 130-year history of Union College has died, the college announced Monday.
Mahlon Miller died Dec. 19 at age 88 in Tempe, Ariz., where he had lived since 1995. College officials did not learn of his death until recently.
Miller came to the college in Barbourville in 1955 as assistant to the president and moved up in 1959 to become the 14th president of the institution. He was president through 1982, according to a news release from the college.
There were significant changes at Union under Miller's leadership, including construction or improvement of many campus buildings and growth in the number of teachers and students.
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Under Miller's leadership, Union created a graduate education program in 1960 to help meet the needs of teachers in the region. The graduate program has since broadened to other areas.
The graduate program helped Union counter a drop in enrollment that affected many colleges in the 1970s, according to the college's news release.
In 1978, Union had the highest enrollment in its history to that point, at 1,190. The college didn't break that mark until 2005.
Miller also was involved in other initiatives, serving as first chairman of the Mid-Appalachian College Council and as the first chairman of a local community-action agency formed in the 1960s War on Poverty.
He also led the effort to lease college property to the city for what has become a popular water park, and allowed the city to use college land for housing for senior citizens, according to the college.
Miller's tenure "greatly increased Union's profile, reach, capacity and field of service," current President Edward D. de Rosset, said in a statement. "Dr. Miller's Union legacy is remarkable. There are programs begun during his 20-plus years that continue to inform and fuel programs today."
Miller had not been able to visit Union since 2005, but kept contact with de Rossett's office through calls and letters.
"Union College was my life and remains my life," he said in one letter, according to the college.
The college's statement said Miller left much of his estate to Union, with instructions to use the gift to "assist students at Union who need financial aid."