Jim Miller got UW-Whitewater athletics off and running
Family: Wife Carol
Hobbies: Golf, watching sports, Warhawks, Badgers, Packers.
Favorite music: '50s, country.
Favorite food: Baby back ribs
Favorite vacation place: Wisconsin (Wisconsin Dells) and Branson
Best description of yourself: People person
WHITEWATER One can say the UW-Whitewater campus has been Jim Miller's playground for decades.
For many years, it was literally his backyard.
The 69-year-old Miller started out as an equipment manager. He advanced to head coach in both basketball and baseball, and he was the sports information director for a time at Whitewater.
Eight years after his "retirement," Miller serves as an assistant to the athletic director, Paul Plinske, and can be found in his office most days. He is the head of the University Athletic Hall of Fame, which is just part of his responsibilities.
"It's on a part-time basis, which is basically full time when the golf course isn't open," Miller said.
Contributing to the university is a family affair. Miller's wife, Carol, is the financial aid officer at UW-W and also spends hours of her free time helping promote the school.
"It's a labor of love," Miller said.
Whitewater has always been Miller's home. He was born at a midwife facility near where Randy's Supper Club stands. When he was 5, his family moved to Prairie Street, with the campus serving as his backyard.
It wasn't much of a campus, featuring only Old Main, the Hamilton Center and the heating plant.
"I like to tell people that when they remodeled Hyer Hall, I've seen every building built on campus," Miller said.
Miller knows about building. He took over a floundering baseball program in 1987 and never had a losing record in any of his 17 seasons. He finished with 416 victories, earning him a spot in both the Wisconsin Baseball Coaches Hall of Fame and UW-Whitewater Hall of Fame.
As he built the program, he also looked to improve the facilities. Back in '87, the Warhawk baseball facility was a backstop and a fence and not much else.
"We didn't even have dugouts," Miller said. "We had to stand out in the rain."
Under Miller's direction, the university raised $8 million for the renovation of the baseball and softball fields, the track and field facility, the soccer field and Perkins Stadium.
The baseball facility now has dugouts and much more—lights, locker rooms, a two-story press box and an artificial surface infield.
"I think it is one of the top 10 fields in Division III," Miller said.
And it has Miller's name stamped on it: Prucha Field at James B. Miller Stadium. A ceremony honoring Miller will be held at the Warhawk baseball game May 17.
Under Miller's former player John Vodenlich, the Warhawks have gone 253-82-1 in the past seven seasons. Miller has been part of that success, which includes a national title in 2005.
"A lot of people wouldn't like the old guy around," Miller said. "But I always feel welcomed."
Vodenlich welcomes Miller's contributions.
"He's been a great mentor and most importantly, a loyal friend," Vodenlich said. "About the best way I can describe him is passionate and committed. The university is very, very fortunate to have him around."
Plinske, the university athletics director, said Miller cares more about others than himself.
"He has meant a tremendous amount to the entire athletic department," Plinske said. "There's no doubt that baseball is his passion, but he has a wonderful broad perspective on all sports."
One of the things Miller's father also told him as a youngster was to leave a place better than when you arrived.
He certainly has done that at UW-Whitewater.