​Ray and Gail Miller have been the foundation of the science department at York College for three and a half decades. Between his classes in chemistry and hers in biology, the couple has influenced hundreds of students who went on to become doctors, physical therapists, dentists, researchers, chiropractors, and teachers of all levels. They have dedicated their professional lives to making an impact through quality scientific instruction in a Christian setting. 

For that reason, the Millers were presented with the first Distinguished Achievement in Academics award at Homecoming. This new award recognizes recipients for their intellectual, spiritual, and professional achievements. “Through their service and in ways that are evident in the lives of their students, Ray and Gail Miller epitomize success,” said Dr. Shane Mountjoy, provost. “Their influence runs deep because their teaching, accomplishments, and lives are guided by their faith. A living testament to their legacy are the science graduates whose lives mirror those of the Millers, individuals who embody service, generosity, and faithfulness.”

​Mountjoy invited four such alumni to the podium at the award luncheon honoring the Millers. “These former students represent just a fraction of the successful professionals that Gail and Ray have mentored and ministered to through the years at York College,” said Mountjoy. 

Mountjoy invited four such alumni to the podium at the award luncheon honoring the Millers. “These former students represent just a fraction of the successful professionals that Gail and Ray have mentored and ministered to through the years at York College,” said Mountjoy. 

Karen (Dunlap) Dittbrenner ‘95, an educator in Beatrice, Nebraska, shared some personal stories of her experiences with the Millers in the classroom and beyond. Of Dr. Ray, she recalled, “No one worked harder. He worked to find ways to make even difficult subjects a little easier. He worked to get students...to discover why the Lord had brought them here.” Dittbrenner described Gail Miller as “kind and loving to all she came into contact with. She has the type of personality that people want to be around and she has a way of connecting with her students.” 

Dittbrenner shared about the months after her sophomore year when she lived with the Millers. “What a fun summer. They totally took me in and made me a part of their family. I enjoyed spending time with all four of them,” she said, mentioning the Millers' two children, Les '00 and Lynn Powers '02.

The Millers also opened up their home to Dr. Aaron Fletcher ‘02, founder and president of Bios Research, a company that analyzes healthcare and biotech industry advances for investors. Fletcher came from a challenging home life. Through his interactions with the Millers during his undergraduate years, he learned more than facts and science skills from the couple. “I was able to see what a spiritual family really looked like. I was able to see how they handled their children...the way that they would joke and have fun,” he said. These are lessons he kept in mind when marrying classmate Holly (Eckstein ‘03) and starting family.

​Dr. Jennifer Witt ‘09, a physical therapist, specializing in the underserved rural population in Flagler, Colorado, also credits the Millers for her professional success. “You can tell right away that they are teachers who love their students, their jobs, and also each other and the Lord,” Witt said. “Because of them I’m able to show my love for God and science to my patients.”

Endowed Gift for the Sciences 

Four science alumni with ties to the Millers have joined together like a covalent bond to provide the L. Ray and Gail Miller Endowment for the Sciences. This new endowment is structured to underwrite a lab assistant position enhancing the college’s science labs.

York College’s initial goal for this fund was $250,000, but the alumni response was beyond generous. Their gift commitment of $270,000 will underwrite a part-time position and has capacity to grow and further impact the science labs through equipment upgrades or other improvements. A focus on labs was chosen to especially honor Dr. Ray’s devotion to his discipline as demonstrated by his work in the lab and his efforts toward continuous investment in educational opportunities for students.

The Millers' Many Hats

​After 35 years in the classroom and lab, Ray recently retired and was elevated to emeritus faculty status. During his time at York College, he’s worn many hats, including department chair, division chair, academic dean, and vice president for academic affairs. For years, he served as a consultant evaluator for the Higher Learning Commission, an accrediting agency for colleges and universities in the United States. Ray also sponsored Sigma Tau men’s social service club, was the Songfest stage manager for 25 years, often kept stats at basketball games, organized quiz bowl competitions, and served as the faculty sponsor for Alpha Chi honor society. In his new role as emeritus faculty, he will keep office hours for tutoring and mentoring science students and will oversee the lab.

Science puns and bad jokes are part of Ray’s legacy. (A poster on his office door: “I’d make another chemistry joke, but all the good ones Argon.”) He has a no-nonsense, straightforward manner in the classroom and gives notoriously hard tests, but is quick with witty turns of phrase, good-natured sarcasm, and his signature chuckle.

Gail has been an associate professor of biology at York College for 24 years. Prior to that she taught courses as an adjunct faculty member while working on a master’s degree in Biology from Ball State University. She and Ray both earned undergraduate degrees from Harding University and Ray earned a PhD at the University of Mississippi. Gail served on the Nebraska Veterinary Medicine Board for ten years and has been a member of Delta Kappa Gamma, a professional organization for women educators, for 24 years.

Beloved among students for her compassion, care, and the massive candy jars beside her office, Gail has been a popular club sponsor over the years, sponsoring Omega Phi, Delta, and Beta Beta Sigma by turns. Both she and Ray have mentored countless students, opening their office and their home for after hours study and counseling sessions. Gail’s legacy includes “In the News” segments presented in chapel and the field trips that are a mainstay of her botany and zoology classes. She regularly takes students to Nebraska’s unique educational attractions such as the Henry Doorly Zoo, Ashfall Fossil Beds, Sandhill Crane Trust, Lincoln’s Sunken Gardens, and Spring Creek Prairie Audubon Center. “It’s really important for them to see real plants and animals, not just dead specimens,” she said. 

The Millers have been recognized with numerous awards throughout their careers. Ray was presented with the Dale R. Larsen Teacher of Achievement Award in 2001 and Gail received the same award in 2008. The award is given annually to a full-time faculty member who has made outstanding contributions to York College. Recipients of the award are nominated by other faculty members and are considered on the basis of teaching, service, spiritual commitment, attitude, and dedication as demonstrated in activities outside the classroom. Similarly, Ray received the Second Miler Award (now called the Reppart Award for Service) several times. In 2008, Ray was presented with a professional achievement award by the Harding University Symposium of Faith and Science. In 2014, Gail was recognized for her service to the Nebraska Veterinary Medicine Board with an honorary decree from Governor Heineman naming her an Admiral in the Great Navy of the State of Nebraska.