Stanford University Home

Stanford News Archive

Stanford Report, January 5, 2000

Frank Miller, first Petroleum Engineering chair, remembered


Frank George Miller, the first chairperson of the Department of Petroleum Engineering at Stanford, died of liver cancer in Larkspur, Calif., on Dec. 17. He was 88.

Miller joined the Stanford faculty in 1953 after 14 years as an engineer with the U.S. Bureau of Mines. He was appointed chair of the newly established Department of Petroleum Engineering in 1957, a position he held for 19 years. He retired as emeritus professor in 1976, but continued to visit the campus and consult with students until his death.

Miller authored more than 20 technical papers on topics such as oil recovery, groundwater reservoir studies and geothermal energy. His work as an international energy consultant resulted in extended assignments in Alaska, Chile, Germany, New Zealand and other locations.

After retiring from Stanford, he served as co-principal investigator on California's largest geothermal geyser project, located approximately 100 miles north of campus.

In 1982, Miller told the Stanford News Service, "It's not love alone that makes the world go around -- it's also energy. And Stanford is doing its bit to make sure that the U.S. doesn't run short."

During his tenure as department chair, Miller added courses in fluid dynamics, mathematics and modern petroleum reservoir engineering. He also strengthened the department's ties with major oil companies, giving students the opportunity to visit oil fields and actual drilling sites.

"Frank Miller made Stanford preeminent in petroleum engineering," said Roland Horne, current department chair. "He made it the department that it is through judicious faculty appointments."

Among those Miller brought to Stanford was consulting Professor A. J. Horn, who died Dec. 19.

Born March 20, 1911, in Sacramento, Miller attained the rank of major in the U.S. Army during World War II. He remained in the officer reserve until 1955, when he retired as a lieutenant colonel.

He earned his bachelor's, master's and doctoral degrees in engineering from the University of California-Berkeley, where he also lectured from 1947 until his appointment at Stanford in 1953.

"I always win at Big Game," Miller often joked, "because I have one foot in Stanford and the other at Cal."

Miller held several offices in the Society of Petroleum Engineers and was a member of Pi Epsilon Tau, the petroleum engineering honor society. In 1978 he spent a term at Heriot-Watt University in Edinburgh, Scotland, as a Fulbright scholar and honorary visiting professor.

Miller's wife, Prudence "Mona" Miller, died in 1995. He is survived by daughter Patricia Miller Baldridge and her husband, Victor Baldridge, of Larkspur and by nephews Jan and Ray Nelson.

Memorial services have been held. The family prefers donations to the Los Altos Methodist Church Music Program, 655 Magdalena Ave., Los Altos, CA 94022 or to the Frank G. Miller Fellowship in Petroleum Engineering, c/o Department of Petroleum Engineering, Stanford University, Stanford, CA 94305-2220. SR