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Orson Knapp Miller Jr.
Orson Knapp Miller Jr.

McCALL, Idaho - Orson Knapp Miller Jr., 75, of McCall, Idaho, passed away Friday, June 9, 2006.

Orson was born Dec. 19, 1930, in Cambridge, Mass. He graduated in forestry from the University of Massachusetts in 1948, earned a master's in forestry in 1957 and a Ph.D. in botany (mycology) in 1963 from the University of Michigan.

After enlisting in the Army in 1952, he began his professional career with the U.S. Forest Service as a research botanist studying fungi of the United States. He returned to his love of teaching at Virginia Tech in Blacksburg, Va., in 1970. One of his greatest joys was seeing his 32 graduate students achieve successes in teaching and industry worldwide.

Orson is noted for his research around the world. He described more than 100 species of fungi new to science, wrote more than 150 research papers, wrote eight books and conducted ecological research in Asia, the Greater Antilles, Belize, the Arctic, Europe and Australia as well as North America.

He was engaged in biodiversity studies in Belize and the Great Smoky Mountains National Park at the time of his death. As a result of his travels and studies, he has made more than 28,000 collections of fungi. Each collection includes a dried specimen, color photographs, a detailed description and in some cases cultures, all located under one collection number. These are located in major herbaria of the world with most of them in the United States.

He taught for 14 summers at the University of Montana Biological Station on Flathead Lake.

Orson and Hope completed a book just before his death for Falcon Press titled "North American Mushrooms: A Field Guide to Edible and Inedible Fungi."

Orson was a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science and past president of the Mycological Society of America. He received from MSA the William Weston Award for Teaching Excellence in 1989 and Distinguished Mycologist Award in 1997, the Thomas Jefferson Medal for Outstanding Contributions to Natural Science from the Virginia Natural History Museum and the North American Mycological Association Award for Contributions to Amateur Mycology in 1981. At the time of his death he was a professor emeritus of botany at Virginia Tech.

Orson is survived by his wife, Hope; his daughters, Andrea Onken (Todd), Annelise Mayer (Ken) and Ginny Miller (Tad Kolwicz); and five grandchildren, Erin Bromm, Cory Mayer, Lindsy Mayer, Logan Onken and Brook Vetter.

A private family service will be held later this summer.

The family suggests memorials to be given to the Mycological Society of America Endowment Fund in the name of Orson K. Miller Jr. This will be for graduate student travel. Please send to Dr. Thomas Harrington, MSA Endowment Chair, Department of Plant Pathology, Iowa State University, Ames IA 50011.

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