Karl Greenwood Miller
was a progressive leader who played a significant role in shaping Penn
’s College of Liberal Arts for Women.
Founded in 1933, the College was led by Merle Odgers for its first three years before Miller became its dean.
In the College’s early years, female students sat in special sections away from their male classmates. The only time women and men weren’t segregated was when a course had too few women to create a women’s section in the classroom. Miller kept an eye on the composition of classes and notified departments if they didn’t offer enough sections for women students.
At one time, Miller proposed awarding women a “Maid of Arts” degree instead of a bachelor of arts degree.
In an address to the Atlantic City branch of the American Association of University Women in 1938, Miller explained that women were receiving a bachelor of arts degree that had a masculine connotation for a course of study designed specifically for the instruction of men. He questioned whether a college curriculum designed originally for young men was necessarily the best type of higher education for young women. Miller mentioned that in 1842, Wesleyan Female College of Cincinnati awarded the degree “Mistress of Arts.”
Penn never offered a “Maid of Arts” degree, but Miller’s idea is an example of his open-minded views.
Under Miller’s leadership, the College created basic courses expressly designed to meet the needs and interests of female students. A marketing course for men was adapted for women so they could focus on purchasing, which was important to women who were looking for jobs that were available to them or in their role as homemakers. The course on marketing methods was designed to help women in journalism fields at a time when they were primarily writing publicity for tea rooms and clothing stores.
A 1915 Penn alumus, Miller also received his master’s degree and doctorate from the University while working at Penn as a psychology instructor. He was dean of the College
while continuing in his position as a faculty member in the Psychology Department
until his retirement in 1960.
During his time at Penn, Miller earned numerous accolades and awards. He received the University General Alumni Society’s Award of Merit in 1950 for his service to Penn. The Varsity Club honored him in 1958 with its Award of Merit as “Penn’s Number One Sports Fan.” Miller was a football season ticket holder for 46 years, beginning in 1912, and attended more than 95 percent of the Quakers’ home games. He missed one year in 1918 when he served in the Department of the U.S. Army Air Service, the forerunner of the U.S. Air Force. He even traveled with Penn football teams to games as close as Princeton and as far away as Berkeley, Calif.
When Miller retired, Penn President Gaylord Harnwell
praised him for turning the College of Liberal Arts for Women into “one of the most outstanding schools of the University.”