Bow ties honor retiring school official Assistant principal favors loud dress

June 23, 1993|By Anne Haddad | Anne Haddad,Staff Writer

Everyone at Westminster West Middle School has a story to tell about Assistant Principal L. Thomas Miller III's wardrobe.

For sixth-grader Tara Euler, it was the bright red pants and flowered shirt.

Classmate Aimee Willet remembers another Mr. Miller special:

"He'll put together red pants and a light pink shirt with a brown tie," Aimee said.

"Always something brown," Tara said.

School secretary Kathy Duex says, "He's been known on occasion to clash -- red and pink, plaids and stripes."

And then there are the accessories Mr. Miller wears intending to be humorous, such as the red reindeer Christmas socks he wore yesterday, on L. Thomas Miller III Day in Westminster, by proclamation of Mayor W. Benjamin Brown.

Mr. Miller is retiring June 30, after a 34-year career at the school. He taught seventh-grade math at West Middle right after graduating from Western Maryland College, and became assistant principal seven years after that.

Along the way, he became known for a clothing style all his own, including some wild bow ties.

He came to school yesterday to find bow ties around the necks of many students and nearly all the adult staff.

Having been warned that morning by an item in a local newspaper, he wore a bow tie himself.

"At one point, they were quite stylish," he said, in defense of the maroon tie about his own neck.

Because assistant principals often dole out discipline and teacher evaluation, the role often comes with a built-in unpopularity.

But Mr. Miller has developed a reputation not just for wacky clothes, but also for a gentle, people-first philosophy, say students and teachers.

"Personally, he's been one of the main reasons for my loving to come to work every day for the last 12 years," said Edward Williar, sixth-grade language arts teacher at the school. "He puts people first. He's in a role where he evaluates me, and that's always been in a helpful mode rather than a critical mode."

Sixth-grader Sara Sciarretta said Mr. Miller even laughs off the jokes students make about his clothes.

"He doesn't really mind. I guess you could call it original, the way he dresses," she said.

"The thing I enjoy most is working with the students," Mr. Miller said. "I deal with a lot of the ones who have a behavior problem, and it's always satisfying to set them back on the right track."

This age group can be frustrating to a school administrator, for sure, he said, "But it can be the most wonderful, too.

"They're so unpredictable. They're going through so many changes. They can be fighting one minute, hugging the next," he said.

Mr. Miller's duties include the school schedule, bus routes and special events at the largest middle school in the county. With 1,200 students, West Middle is larger than three of the county's high schools.

"He's always on the move. He knows what bus every student is on," Mr. Williar said.

Mr. Miller, 55, said his post-retirement plans are wide open -- more travel, continued activity with West

minster Baptist Church and more time with his three grandchildren.

He is married to Fran Miller, community-health education coordinator for Carroll County General Hospital. They have three grown children.

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