After 35 years at Culver
July 30, 2021
Capt. Tim Miller taught his last class at Culver Summer Schools & Camps Thursday afternoon.
Miller, a 1965 Naval School graduate himself, has been teaching leadership classes for the past five to six years. He started teaching the classes at the Naval School while he was still the director. This summer, he taught it outside, sitting with his students on the patio of The Shack on the shore of Lake Maxinkuckee.
It was symbolic in a way. As a summer student, one of Miller’s favorite places to get away from it all was the old Shack, which was attached to the Culver Inn. The other was the library when it was located in the Legion.
“I would go there, get a book, sit on a couch and read,” he explained. Because the stone walls are so thick, it was always comfortable inside. “I went there to cool off.”
With a breeze blowing and the ski boats going by, Miller finished with his students. The class is Front Line Leadership and he taught it during the third trimester (final two weeks). It provides a hands-on, step-by-step, toolkit of actions that leaders can take for different situations. “These are the hard skills students can use,” Miller said. Each student is given a set of cards covering with different situations and guidelines they can follow. The students then think of real-life cases where these skills would be useful and practice them.
Miller said the students “seem to like it.” What it does is take the leadership theories they have learned in other classes and put them in practice. Each student gets to keep the cards for future reference.
Miller developed the Upper School leadership program with Col. Warren Foersch, who served as the summer commandant and the assistant commandant of the boarding school. “He was an amazing man. I think he knew just about every kid’s name by the end of the second week of camp,” Miller said of Foersch.
When Foresch was unable to return in 2019 because he was battling cancer, Miller stepped in commandant “for my one-and-only summer.” The hours were just too long for him. Then, when camp was closed in 2020, Miller said he learned he could still enjoy a Culver summer without being involved with camp. “There were still plenty of things to do.” That played a part in his decision to call 2021 his last.
At age 71, Miller has been involved with Culver Upper Schools for 38 years. First came three years as a student in Naval School, then returning in 1968 for his first stint as a sailing instructor. During that time he was worked with Adm. John Bays, Capt. Peter Whitney, Burt Curry, and Bob Stockwell. He credits them, along with Jerry Thomas and Pat Hodgkin, with teaching him the “ins-and-outs” of sailing and how to teach it to others.
It was during Stockwell’s tenure, with Miller as assistant director, that the Naval School became a US Sailing certified teaching entity. Culver is still the only secondary school and summer camp that actively works to certify high school age students. “Most programs are geared for adults,” he said.
While Miller was director, the Naval Building underwent a major renovation and the entire fleet except for the interlakes has been turned over. That also involved bringing five keel boats into the fleet. And he was able to lure now-Naval Director Joe Hanko out of Florida to come onboard. “It was nice to be able to pick your successor,” he said. Hanko also serves as the Culver Academies sailing coach. Culver is the only high school on an inland lake with a sailing team, and Miller has assisted with the program a few times during the fall.
Along with staying in the fall, Miller has arrived in mid-May to help get the Naval School prepared and get the boats in the water. “I like the change in seasons,” he said, “I just don’t like the winters here.”
That stems from the two years he spent as the Troop A counselor. He was here from 1977 through 1979, which were also the two worst winters in recent history. “I may still have been here if it hadn’t been for that,” he said.
Now, though, he is looking forward to “moving on to something else.” And by moving, he means on his three-wheeled motorcycle. His bucket list goal is to ride it through all 49 of the continental United States. While he did a ride through the northeast earlier this year, he wants to touch Maine, New Hampshire and Vermont again, along with Halifax, Nova Scotia, because the COVID restrictions limited his sight-seeing capabilities.
Then he’ll start to check the western states off his list, probably Texas, New Mexico, and Arizona in the spring before it gets too hot.
Lately, Miller has been splitting his time between Culver, where he has an apartment; a house in Fort Myers Beach, Florida; and a home in Toledo, Ohio, so he and his wife, Marty, can be near daughter Kara SS'02 and granddaughter, Alexis.
But Miller’s 35 years at Culver may best be remembered by the legacy of leadership he is just finishing up. While Summer Schools & Camps have long had a Code of Conduct, it is one that has been operated by the adults.
But in 2019, work began on a new Honor Code and a system that would follow the Honor Council set up by the boarding school. Miller said the Upper School students just approved taking over the system, which will now establish an honor code officer in each unit for 2022. Those students will sit on the Honor Council along with the Regimental Commander for each make. They will be making the decisions on student conduct cases. “The only person who will change during the summer will be the reg. com.,” Miller said, who believes this is a big step for the students.
He also just completed a leadership toolkit for Woodcraft Camp, which will cover three years of leadership exercises for campers. With 13 different exercises/games available, every counselor should be able to run through the series without repeating one. Gold Cs could be doing a self-directed exercise, he explained, while the counselor is leading the younger campers through another.
Now, he is mulling over the opportunity to return and teach Front Line Leadership during the third trimester next summer. So, saying that Miller has taught his last Summer Schools & Camps class after 35 years may not be set in stone. After all, there are still 50 weeks in a year to work on that bucket list.
Let’s just say 35 years and holding.