Opal Lucille Miller Payne
1911 - 2008
Opal Miller, a pianist and music theory teacher, taught at Union College for most of her career. She began teaching at UC in 1946, arriving just as a new music building had been completed and the influx of World War II veterans was swelling enrollment at the college. In her first year there, 600 students of all ages enrolled in music, 400 of them in lessons.
She was totally devoted to her students and the school, as well as her family. From 1952 to 1959, she took a leave of absence to care for her parents, working for six of those years near her parents' home as an elementary teacher to support herself. After teaching at Newbury Park Academy for one year, she returned to UC.
By the time she officially retired in 1976, she had attained the rank of professor and become a legendary and beloved teacher, an outstanding theory instructor with high standards. Following her retirement, she continued to teach theory on a part-time basis for three more years in order to help the department through a period of transition.
Miller was born in Aleene, Arkansas, and graduated from Byrd High School in 1930 in Shreveport, Louisiana. She entered Southern Junior College, now Southern Adventist University, that fall and completed the Collegiate Music Course in 1932. Two years later, after completing an A.B. at Emmanuel Missionary College, now Andrews University, she taught for a year as a secondary teacher in the Louisiana-Arkansas Conference and for two years in the Alabama-Mississippi Conference. From 1943 to 1945, she taught music at Ozark Academy in Arkansas.
ln 1945 Miller moved to Lincoln, Nebraska, where she attended the University of Nebraska, graduating a year later with an M.Mus. She did additional graduate study there in 1960 and 1961.
She moved to a retirement home near Southern Missionary College, now Southern Adventist University in 1979. While attending an alumni homecoming at the school, she renewed a friendship with Donald Payne, a student she had known while attending SJC from 1930 to 1932. The renewed friendship led to their marriage in 1991. Two years later, they moved to California, to be nearer one of his sons, a dentist in Lodi.
She stayed in California following his death in 2000 and was living in Lodi at the time of her death.
Sources: Information provided by Naomi Jungling, 2008; Obituary, Pacific Union Recorder, May 2008: personal knowledge (We worked together at Union College for eleven years).