Terre Haute, IN | Certificate of Distinction: 2009
Max Miller retired in 1996 after serving Purdue Extension for 36 years as a county educator, the last 26 years as County Extension Director in Vigo County. Miller graduated from Purdue University in 1959 with a B.S. degree in Agriculture. In 1963 he received his M.S. in Agricultural Extension and Community Development from Purdue.
From 1960 to 1970 Miller was an extension educator in Hamilton, LaPorte and Huntington counties, serving as County Extension Director in Huntington County 1966-70. As County Extension Director in Vigo County, Miller left his mark in many ways, but particularly distinguished himself as a champion of Purdue Agriculture in the Wabash Valley region and as an exemplary leader in community and economic development. The crown jewels of Miller’s legacy in Vigo County include the establishment of an industrial park; establishment of two wetland park reservations, including one of more than 1,200 acres along the Wabash River; development of an exemplary county park system that includes a Pioneer Village and a 15-mile Heritage Trail and which he led as board president for 14 years; and the founding of Leadership Terre Haute in 1977 (now Leadership Wabash Valley) that has now prepared more than 900 citizens to assume leadership roles in the community.
Miller has served on virtually every community development group in Vigo County, and he has continued to be active since his retirement. In the 1970’s his leadership of the Alliance for Growth & Progress led to the establishment of several other economic development groups, as well as the industrial park. Miller’s work with Terre Haute Chamber of Commerce led to establishing their first Agribusiness Committee which resulted in bringing the 1995 Farm Progress Show to Vigo County. He served on the Chamber’s strategic arm, Terre Haute Tomorrow from 1991 to 2007, resulting in success stories including: the establishment of a community master plan; establishing a brand, Terre Haute: A Level Above; organization of the Terre Haute Neighborhood Association; enhancement of the trail system and creation of Wabash River Development & Beautification, Inc. As chairman of the latter organization, Miller has established the 1,200 acre Wabash River National Road Wetland Reservation; his personal efforts raised over $2.5 million for the land acquisition. Since 2001 he has served on the Chamber’s Washington, DC Legislative Committee. Miller also helped found Trees, Inc. (1991-present; president, 1992-95) which has added more than 2,000 hardwood trees to Terre Haute, and he worked to get an urban forester for the local park system.
During the 1980’s and 1990’s, Miller worked on behalf of fellow Extension educators, first serving on a committee that formulated a plan to reduce Extension’s administrative structure and develop a new organizational structure to bring staffing levels in line with available resources. Later he worked with members of the Indiana General Assembly to secure resources to bring Extension educators’ salaries in line with classroom teachers, as well as to remove the cap on retirement benefits that was in existence at that time.
Miller’s professional memberships include: Indiana Extension Agents Association (1960-present; chairman of interest committee 1994-95); Community Development Society (1970-96; president 1984); and Epsilon Sigma Phi (1960-present). Miller’s other community service and leadership roles include: Kiwanis Club (1965-present); Wabash Valley Fair Board (1970-1996); Hamilton Center Mental Health Center (board 1991-2002, 2005-present; president 1999-2003); Leadership Terre Haute (1977-present; president 1980 and 1998); Vigo County Park Board (1970-1996; president 1970-1984); Terre Haute Children’s Museum Board (2005-present); and Purdue Agricultural Alumni Association (1959-present; board member 1994-2007). After retirement, he made 3 trips (1996-2001) to Poland and Slovakia as a representative of Purdue Agriculture helping to develop and extension education model in those countries. He is active in the Memorial United Methodist Church (1970-present) where he has served as a Sunday School teacher and on the Board of Trustees and the Administrative Council, and as a Lay Leader (1995-2006). He has also done volunteer work as an agriculture missionary to Russia.
Miller has been recognized by many organizations for his accomplishments and service, including: Farm Foundation Award (1968); Outstanding Citizen Award – Jaycees (1975); Purdue Extension Innovator Award (1979); Alan Rankin Service Award – Leadership Terre Haute (1983 and 2001); Handclasp Award – Kiwanis (1986); USDA Certificate of Distinction (1987);Terre Award (1989); Indiana Extension Agents Association Senior Award (1990); National Extension Meritorious Service Award (1993); Wabash Valley Fair Award (1997); Mighty Oak Award – Trees, Inc. (2003); Optimist Book of Golden Deeds (2005) and International Service Award for Poland and Slovakia. In 1996, Governor Evan Bayh named him a Sagamore of the Wabash.