Miller gift establishes endowed chair in medical physics at Clemson
CLEMSON –- Cardiologist Waenard L. Miller and his wife, Sheila, of Frisco, Texas, have given $2 million to Clemson University to establish the Dr. Waenard L. Miller, Jr. ’69 and Sheila M. Miller Endowed Chair in Medical Physics.
“My vision of the medical physics program is a multidisciplinary collaborative endeavor associated with excellence in research, exponential growth in innovation, and outstanding educational opportunities for students,” Miller said.
Miller earned his physics degree from Clemson in 1969. He received his medical degree from the Medical University of South Carolina and completed his internal medicine residency and a fellowship in cardiology at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical School. He also holds master’s degrees in nuclear physics, biology and medical management.
“My career started with my experience in physics at Clemson, with the faculty there, who instilled in me an excitement for learning about the wonders of the physical world,” Miller said. “I was like a sponge. I absorbed it all and was just fascinated by physics. That desire for continual learning and inquiry has lasted throughout my entire career.”
The Millers met when they were in high school in Greenville, S.C. Sheila’s father, Bernyrd C. McLawhorn, was a Greenville physician with a degree in physics from Furman and a medical degree from Duke. McLawhorn encouraged and mentored Waenard in his medical career.
“We had a common language in physics, but I was equally inspired by his knowledge of medicine and his commitment to his patients,” Miller said. “My father-in-law was clearly the role model for my eventual choice of medicine as my vocation.”
Sheila fondly remembers the friendship between her father and her future husband.
“When I was dating Waenard, I knew I had to get to the door immediately, because if I didn’t get there right away the two of them would go off in a corner and start talking about black holes, and we’d be late for wherever we were going,” she said.
Miller was in the Air Force Reserve Officers’ Training Corps at Clemson and was commissioned as a second lieutenant upon graduation. The Air Force sent him to graduate school at the University of Tennessee in nuclear physics, and then stationed him at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in Ohio, assigning him to the foreign technology division as a physicist. He later transferred to the Aerospace Medical Research Laboratory, and there became intrigued with the combined concept of physics and biology.
Miller began practicing medicine near Dallas in 1983 and co-founded the Legacy Heart Center (LHC) in 1995. Under his leadership, LHC became renowned for leading-edge cardiovascular care. Texas Monthly magazine named him a “Texas Super Doctor” for eight consecutive years – a designation determined by a poll of doctors and nurses across the state of Texas as well as through independent research.
Clemson University President James P. Clements described Miller as one of the university’s most accomplished alumni, and thanked him and his wife for being so engaged and generous.
“Waenard and Sheila already have established a significant legacy. We are so honored that they have decided to partner with Clemson to enhance their legacy even further,” Clements said. “This wonderful gift will allow us to expand our internationally acclaimed biomedical research program and help meet the demand for medical physicists in the health care industry.”
The endowed position will be a joint appointment in Clemson’s departments of physics and astronomy and bioengineering. While collaborating with medical partners of Clemson University, the research conducted by the endowed chair holder will be at the interface of science and engineering with clinical translation as the outcome.
Mark Leising, former chair of Clemson’s physics and astronomy department and interim dean of the College of Science, said the endowment will most certainly achieve the Millers’ goals and more.
“Dr. and Mrs. Miller’s gift will invigorate our medical physics education and research programs,” Leising said. “Bringing more physicists and physical science techniques to medicine will continue to improve patient care and fill an important need of our state.”
Martine LaBerge, chair of Clemson’s bioengineering department, noted that Miller has spent his career on the cutting edge of medicine, raising the level of care higher and higher for patients, and the endowment will ensure future generations of Clemson graduates can do the same.
“Medical physics research is at the forefront of patient care,” said LaBerge. “With this generous gift, Clemson University will continue to lead the field of medical diagnostics and will make a significant impact in basic and applied research to improve patient outcomes.”
The Millers’ gift is a part of Clemson University’s $1 billion “The Will to Lead” capital campaign to support faculty and students with scholarships, professorships, facilities and technology.