Robert Francis Miller, 1939-2021

(From: StarTribune)

Robert Francis “Bob” Robert Francis Miller (Bob), Professor Emeritus of Neuroscience and Physiology at the University of Minnesota, passed away March 1, 2021. Preceded in death by his parents, Irvine Miller and Ettie Paxman (nee Miller) and stepfather Rulon Paxman, he is survived by Rosemary, his loving wife of 52 years; his sons Derek and Drew (Stefanie); sisters Cynthia, Cathy and their families; brother-in-law Rit (Brenda), their son Eric (Tiffany); sister-in-law Stephanie and her daughter Nicki (Randall), and their sons Sam and Jack; along with countless other friends and colleagues. Born in Eugene, Oregon, in 1939, Bob grew up in Salt Lake City, Utah, from an early age demonstrating the same curiosity and enthusiasm that would define his personal and professional life. As a child he trained carrier pigeons (released by his father from as far away as Idaho), started a business selling aquarium fish and (secretly) stabled his own horse, all before he was old enough to shave. After becoming the youngest Eagle Scout in Utah history, Bob worked his way up to become head chef at Finn’s, then one of Utah’s best restaurants. He developed into an expert skier of Utah’s famed deep powder mountains as well as an accomplished golfer, both passions he would continue to pursue joyfully for the rest of his life. But it was in medical school at the University of Utah that Bob discovered his lifelong passion – scientific research. He spent the next half century dedicated to science, focusing his efforts on the vertebrate eye, his work resulting in significant contributions to our understanding of the retina. After receiving his MD Bob did postdoctoral work at Johns Hopkins University before joining the Navy as an officer, where he continued his research in Pensacola, FL. He was hired as a professor at SUNY-Buffalo two years later, beginning an illustrious career in academic medicine. At SUNY he played a pivotal role in establishing a vibrant basic science research program in the visual neurosciences, one that continues to this day. From there Bob moved to Washington University in St. Louis, MO, where he continued to conduct groundbreaking research. In 1988 he was recruited as 3M Bert Cross Chair and Department Head of Physiology at the University of MN, later becoming a professor in the newly established Neuroscience Department. He would remain in that position until his retirement in 2018. Early on Bob developed into an avid teacher and mentor, and he remained proud that his laboratory helped launch numerous successful scientific careers. After a career spent lecturing on his research everywhere from local classrooms to international symposia, Bob’s teaching and research efforts were both recognized with high honors: in 2008 he received the Association for Research In Vision and Ophthalmology (ARVO’s) Proctor Medal, which recognizes significant lifelong contributions to vision research. Throughout his life Bob remained a dedicated father and husband. His bond with his sons remained strong, and they continued to spend time together playing golf (alongside lifelong friend Steve Hall), snowshoeing and vacationing together. He and Rosemary traveled the world and saw friends even as Bob found intensive new pursuits later in life, becoming a prizewinning orchid grower and starting his own politically oriented blog. After caring for him through a difficult illness, progressive supranuclear palsy, his immediate family was happy to be by his side when he passed. Bob’s spirit, his intense engagement with his interests, his infectious sense of humor and much more are already missed. He will be remembered by friends, family and colleagues alike. An in-person memorial service will be held at a later date. Donations in Bob’s honor may be sent to the ARVO Foundation or to the Dowling Society within ARVO. Donations may also be made to the UMN Foundation.