In York College history, few people have made as large an impact on the minds and hearts of students as Mabrey and Madge Miller. Countless students can recall classes with “Doc Miller,” or visiting with Madge and eating her homemade cookies or jelly. They have been a quiet source of stability and strength on this campus and the East Hill congregation in York for over a half a century.
Mabrey and Madge met in Syracuse, New York, in 1943 where they were both working on a Campaign for Christ team for the summer. Mabrey recalled meeting teammates at the train station and picking up two suitcases, hollering, “Whoever these belong to, come with me!” Madge and another girl followed him, and over the course of the two mile walk to their destination, “I decided which one I liked best,” said Mabrey. They were married a year later, and in 2008 celebrated their 64th wedding anniversary.
“My daddy’s sister told me, ‘Mabrey, while you’re young, date a lot of girls so that when you’re ready to get married, you’ll know how to pick a good one.’ Well, I followed her advice, and don’t you think I picked a good one?” said Mabrey with a grin in a 2005 interview. He said that Madge continues to be integral to his ministry as they visit hospitals and nursing homes together to pray with people. Mabrey served as an elder in the East Hill church for 47 years, and in all those years, Madge was serving by his side. Under their care and guidance, and with God’s blessing, the church they helped to plant has grown to more than 500 members.
“It’s been great to see the growth in the church,” said Mabrey, recalling their humble beginnings with a few Christians meeting in Middlebrook parlor. When they outgrew that locale, they moved to “The Panthers Lair” in Middlebrook basement, and then to the cafeteria. When that space was no longer sufficient, they started construction on a building adjacent to campus at 10th and Kiplinger—the building that is now Gurganus Hall. “By 1974, two services would not fit us all into that building,” said Mabrey. That’s when construction plans for the current East Hill church building began. An addition was built onto that building in 2000, and already more space is needed for the growing congregation.
This church growth is a wish fulfilled for the Millers. When Mabrey and Madge moved to York in 1956, they had a dream and a purpose. “I had a vision of a Christian college in the North where the churches of Christ were very scarce,” said Mabrey. “I dreamed that if I started a Christian college, we could train leaders for the church and we could start a mini Bible-belt through Nebraska, Iowa, and the North Central states…I still have the dream that our students, graduates, will go out and live in these states and seed the communities with Christian leaders.”
The Millers came to York when the school reopened under church of Christ administration. During that first school year of transitions, there were just 83 students at YC. At that time, the Millers had two daughters, Wendy and Ramona. Eventually they added Bryan, Keith, and Kirk to the family. Both Madge and Mabrey have worked for the college in a number of capacities. Mabrey was first hired to be the Registrar and to teach Elementary Education classes. Eventually, he moved into the role of Dean of Students, Athletic Director, dorm parent, tennis coach, Academic Dean, mathematics instructor, and eventually, Professor of Bible—a position he held for more than three decades.
Madge also has served in a variety of roles, such as secretary in several offices, Career Counselor and Student Teacher Supervisor. In years of abundance, Madge would sometimes work in official capacities and be put on the payroll; in leaner years, she would happily serve the college for no pay in whatever way she could. Though Mabrey is recognized as having been a YC employee longer, the difference he has made to this institution is matched by his gentle bride, who often serves without expectation of thanks or praise, but with a humble desire to please the Lord.
When asked about the high points in his career, Mabrey recalled two key events in York College history that he helped to bring about: gaining accreditation through the North Central Association, and becoming a four-year college. Mabrey said he also has many fond memories of watching Panther basketball, playing and coaching tennis, and playing “noon-ball” over the lunch hour with other faculty members.
In October of 2005, a celebration dinner was held honoring Madge and Mabrey’s golden anniversary with YC. The dinner was attended by over a hundred well-wishers and friends eager to honor the Millers. Leading up to the dinner was a several-month campaign for the York College Scholarship Fund in honor of Madge and Mabrey. This campaign resulted in raising over $115,000 for scholarships for York College students.
The Millers have seen so many changes and incredible growth in the school they have given their lives to for more than 50 years. For all their sacrifices, for all their love and prayers, and for all their years of devoted service to this college, community, and the Kingdom, we give them honor.
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