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Charles Miller, former UT System regent, dies

  • Charles Miller, a Houston businessman and leader in education reform in Texas, died Wednesday. He was photographed in June 2004. Photo: John Everett, Houston Chronicle / Houston Chronicle



Charles Miller, an influential University of Texas System regent, higher education advocate and Houston leader, died Wednesday, the UT System confirmed.

Miller was a UT board member from 1999 through 2004, and he served as chair for three of those years. He was later tapped by former Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings under President George W. Bush to chair a federal commission on higher education.

Miller had a long career in business in Houston and led local organizations including the Greater Houston Partnership. Apart from his UT System service, he was a Board of Visitors member at the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center and served on the Governor’s Business Council.

Bolstering system finances was key for Miller when he was on the board, he told the Houston Chronicle earlier this year.

The board had grown cautious in its spending in the 1980s and 1990s, he said, after the oil downturn. As the economy improved, he said he saw it as a responsibility to bring in money to UT and spend it carefully amid economic growth.

“As a conservative regent, I went out of my way to start getting big money (and) revenues back into the system, and spending it,” he said. “(Donors) knew I wasn’t going to do it foolishly….The duty is to spend the money you can get wisely.”

He was outspoken this legislative session in advocating for more higher education funding from state lawmakers, particularly for “special items,” which are centers or projects that universities fund with a pool of state money that is separate from standard funding.

These programs, he wrote in a Houston Chronicle op-ed earlier this year, are “vital” to draw students, faculty and researchers to Texas.

“The current approach of whacking away at such invaluable programs is a disastrous way to fund higher education,” he wrote. “This shameful way of allocating resources has a hint of antagonism to higher education and comes across as punitive. Someone in leadership needs to show up and change this course of destructive behavior.”

On the federal Commission on the Future of Higher Education under Spellings, he advocated for standardized testing to measure student learning at universities, a measure many contemporaries disputed.

Lindsay Ellis writes about higher education for the Chronicle. You can follow her on Twitter and send her tips at

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