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Lunch with Robertson

By Dr. Johnny V. Miller

CIU President 1991-1999

obertson McQuilkin wasn’t

physically or emotionally ready

to retire in 1990. He still simmered with

energy and vision. The fact that he did

retire to care for Muriel bespeaks loudly

his commitment to her.

So one task my first year as the next CIU

president, was to learn to take advantage

of his strengths without conflict over

differences in style and perspective. He

was also concerned not to get in my way.

He pledged not to come on campus my

first year, not to interfere with the board

of trustees — many his loyal friends,

and to guard my back with alumni and


So we met regularly to talk and build a

personal friendship beyond what we had

as colleagues and acquaintances for the

previous 11 years when he recruited me

to teach at CIU.


For our first meeting, he invited me to

his house to eat. He had retired to the

“McQuilkin compound” in Eau Claire, a

couple of miles from campus, a corner

square owned originally by his father,

Robert C. McQuilkin. Eau Claire had once

been an upscale suburb on the northern

fringe of Columbia. But “white flight”

had left it a racial enclave. Robertson

didn’t choose to retire there


racial issues, but


of them.

He had upgraded the house to make

it suitable to caring for Muriel after

moving from the president’s house on

campus. He created a Japanese garden

in the backyard, a place for peaceful

meditation. He put up a privacy fence

for protection — his car was stolen more

than once, and the house broken into.

I was a bit in awe on my first visit because

I was still intimidated by him. We’d spent

lots of time together: He had hoped

I would take over his courses so we

had been team-teaching. Over those

times together I learned he had high

Living CIU presidents pose with

Robertson McQuilkin (from left):

Bill Jones, George Murray, and

Johnny Miller. Jones remembers

Robertson McQuilkin on page 35.

“The school was part

of his DNA ...”

–Dr. Johnny V. Miller


CIU Today

Fall 2016