Frankly, for the late James Miller, it all boiled down to money. Since he lived in Bluffton, he was able to live at home and go to college while working at Triplett Corp. for 25 cents an hour.
Still, Miller found time to play two of his favorite sports, football and baseball. The Varsity B member played for all four years of college. His sophomore year was the highlight of his football career, with the team ending the season 4-1-2. He was noted as a diminutive but elusive back with much determination. By the time he graduated, he had earned eight sports letters.
In addition to earning letters, he was learning valuable lessons for life. “One of the most important lessons I learned while attending Bluffton College and playing for Coach Burcky was that in life you need to learn to play with the hand you are dealt—to do with what you have—and if you do learn this, you’ll probably win more than your fair share of life’s prizes,” he said.
Miller recalled a tremendous amount of negative thinking throughout the country during the Depression years, yet he graduated from Bluffton with a positive attitude. “I think Coach Burcky is largely responsible for this attitude. He had little to deal with—money, equipment, talent—yet he made you feel that there was always a chance.”
In addition to his studies, work and athletics, Miller found time for other activities. He was on the men’s debate team that placed third in state competition in 1937. He was active in student government and was Student Council president his junior year. He was editor of the Ista yearbook and participated in thespians as a senior.
The leadership activities and positive attitude that Miller gained at Bluffton carried him into leadership positions after his 1939 graduation with a degree in social science. He taught and coached high school football before entering the U.S. Coast Guard in 1942. He was commissioned as a senior lieutenant during his four years with the Coast Guard. Following World War II, he returned to coaching, this time in Mission, Texas.
Miller was head of his own company, JFM Associates, a marketing organization selling energy-related products throughout Texas. He was also a community and church leader. His credits included being mayor of Mission and its Man of the Year in 1951; a school board and Lions Club president; and a member of a bank board of directors.
He was also a Sunday school teacher, lay leader and chair of the building financial drive for First Methodist Church in Mission.
A leader must think positively about life’s opportunities. Miller, who died in 2012, attributed his value of this personal quality in part to his educational experiences at Bluffton. “I am and will always be deeply grateful to Bluffton College and more particularly to Coach Burcky for this invaluable gift—a positive attitude.”