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Last updated October 17.

Oct. 17, 2011 issue

Goshen College mourns sudden death of professor

By Sheldon C. Good Mennonite Weekly Review

The Goshen College community is mourning the death of longtime professor James S. Miller, who was killed during a home invasion Oct. 9.

About 500 people, including these students, gather for a candlelight vigil Oct. 9 in front of Goshen College’s Science Building to remember biology professor James S. Miller, who was killed during a home invasion that morning.

About 500 people, including these students, gather for a candlelight vigil Oct. 9 in front of Goshen College’s Science Building to remember biology professor James S. Miller, who was killed during a home invasion that morning. — Photo by Mark Shephard/Elkhart Truth

Miller, 58, who taught biology at the college since 1980, and his wife, Linda, were attacked in an attempted robbery around 1 a.m. at their home. They live about two blocks east of campus.

Miller was pronounced dead at the scene as a result of his injuries. An autopsy Oct. 10 revealed “multiple blunt force and sharp force trauma,” according to Elkhart County Coroner John White. His death was ruled a homicide.

Linda Miller was struck by an unknown object and seriously injured before she called 911.

At press time on Oct. 12 she was recovering in the hospital. Her injuries were not believed to be life-threatening.

The Millers are members of Clinton Frame Mennonite Church in Goshen, where Linda is interim pastor of children’s ministries. They have three children, two of whom live at home but were returning from a high school activity and not present during the attack.

About 500 students, colleagues, friends and community members gathered at 8 p.m. Oct. 9 on campus to mourn Miller’s death, celebrate his life and hold a prayer vigil.

The group circled the plaza outside the Science Building where Miller taught, holding candles and singing hymns. As the vigil ended, President Jim Brenneman noted the group’s collective grief.

“We believe deeply that as we light these candles, we do so in remembrance, in recognition and with a profound belief that light overcomes darkness and that the darkness cannot bear the light,” he said.

Bob Yoder, campus pastor, prayed for the Miller family, the community, the perpetrator and everyone involved in the ongoing investigation.

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  • I attended Goshen College and lived in Goshen for fourteen years after graduation. I am sorry to hear of this tragedy. The Goshen College community is in our thoughts and prayers.

    - Mike Springer (oct 10 at 10:41 a.m.)

  • I have stared at this empty box for a long time wondering what to say. Jim was my mentor and friend when I was at Goshen College back in 1980 when he started in the biology department. He helped me in countless ways thereafter. It is true, he was one of the kindest persons I have ever known. His quick thinking, his curious mind that always needed to know more, or know why, were balanced out by his wit and good humor. He loved making a difference in his teaching, and his great common sense rubbed off on all of us. I am still in shock at the senseless reality of this act of violence. I know he was having the same great effect on his students just like he did with me 30 years ago. I am so sorry that he cannot continue all the teaching and mentoring he had left to do. I will miss Jim, his students will miss him, and miss what was yet to come. James Miller, one of the greatest teachers I have ever known.

    - Dennis Mishler (oct 10 at 10:32 p.m.)

  • Prayers hardly seem enough at times like these. But it is what I offer: for the Miller family; for GC students; for faculty and staff. God's best to all of you. May each have all the grace needed for whatever is encountered in the days ahead. --Ruben Chupp

    - Ruben Chupp (oct 11 at 12:35 p.m.)

  • Jim and I were friends, classmates and colleagues at graduate school in Ohio State. We pushed each other to excellence under the creative guidance of our mentor, the late Dr. David G. Cornwell. Words cannot express the shock and sorrow upon learning of Jim's death. My wife and I will miss Jim's yearly Christmas newsletters. We will hold Jim's family in our prayers.

    - Victor Gavino (dec 28 at 9:01 a.m.)

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