Ruth B. Miller, 95, city educator, Leith Walk Elementary principal

July 03, 2002|By Frederick N. Rasmussen | Frederick N. Rasmussen,SUN STAFF

Ruth B. Miller, a Baltimore public school educator and principal whose career spanned nearly 50 years, died of cancer Sunday at Roland Park Place. She was 95.

Dr. Miller, who had lived at the Roland Park retirement community for more than 16 years, was born Ruth B. Hoeflich in Baltimore. After the death of her mother when she was 4 years old, she moved to Fells Point, where she was raised by an uncle and aunt, whose last name she later took as her own.

A 1924 graduate of Eastern High School, she earned her teaching certificate from the State Normal School, now Towson University, in 1926. She later earned a master's degree and her doctorate in education in 1951 from the Johns Hopkins University.

Dr. Miller began her teaching career in city public schools in 1926. She was appointed principal of the newly completed Leith Walk Elementary School in Northeast Baltimore in 1954.

It was here that Dr. Miller made her mark as both an educator and principal with faculty, pupils and their parents.

"She was a superb principal, and I was very proud to be a part of her school. She was a brilliant woman and a joy to know," said Ruth Hopkins, who taught third grade at the school until retiring in 1971.

"She instigated the Three C's at Leith Walk - consideration, cooperation and courtesy - and it was something we always spoke of to the children. As a disciplinarian, she was firm but wore velvet gloves," said Mrs. Hopkins, a Towson resident.

What impressed Mrs. Hopkins on her first day at the school was how quiet the building was.

"Clearly, this was a place of learning. And when we had faculty meetings, she got right to the point," she said.

In a 1970 interview, Dr. Miller told The Evening Sun, "Teachers have to move with the times. They have to be flexible. There's no sense being a teacher if you're not flexible."

Kay Herr, who taught at the school from 1954 until 1974, when she joined the faculty of Carroll Manor Elementary School, recalled her progressive outlook.

"She was always ahead of her time," said Mrs. Herr, who lives in Jarrettsville and retired in 1991. "She wanted the children to really learn how to read and would try anything to accomplish that end. If a student could learn to read through phonics, then that's how they were taught. She realized that every child needed a good basis for reading."

"When the new math came along, she implemented that, but wanted the students to understand how to do math and just not use a calculator," she said.

"When it came to discipline, she always said, `Children are great, but you have to have eyes in the back of your head,'" said Mrs. Herr, laughing.

When the Beatles visited Baltimore as part of their 1964 tour, guitarist George Harrison wanted to visit an American school and was taken to Leith Walk.

"She refused to shake his hand and with that long hair, thought he was low-class," said Monroe Denton, a nephew and Brooklyn, N.Y., resident, laughing. "Not long ago, she said, `You know, I wish I had shaken his hand. I regret that. He really was very nice.'"

At the time of her 1973 retirement, the school's media center was named in her honor.

"Her administrative ability and high standards of excellence helped to make the school known throughout the state," the secretary of the school's PTA wrote to The Sun in 1973.

Dr. Miller had lived in the Marylander Apartments in North Baltimore for many years, and followed a set routine.

She prided herself on not having learned to cook and ate dinner - always at 5 p.m., according to her nephew - at either the Johns Hopkins Club or in the tea room of Hutzler's department store in downtown Baltimore.

She also was a devotee of Rheb's chocolates, made by the noted West Baltimore candy maker, and of ice cream, often enjoying half a quart each evening.

A voracious reader, she preferred visiting the Enoch Pratt Free Library to buying books.

"She was indeed a total character. You might even say something of an eccentric," said Mr. Denton.

Dr. Miller was a member of Lovely Lane United Methodist Church and contributed to the church's restoration several years ago.

A memorial service will be held at 2:30 p.m. Monday at Roland Park Place, 830 W. 40th St.

Dr. Miller is survived by a brother, Bernard Hoeflich of Pasadena; two sisters, Lillian H. Taylor of Catonsville and Dorothea Moreau of Delray, Fla.; and several other nephews and nieces.

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