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John H. Millett.

John H. Millett, emeritus professor of political science at Wichita State University, died January 26th at age 77 in Sarosota, Florida, following complications from heart-by-pass surgery. A native of Wheaton, Illinois, John earned his Phi Beta Kappa key at Beloit College where he received his B.A. in 1940. He took a M.A. in public administration from the University of Cincinnati in 1942. Following service as an army captain in Korea during World War II, John enrolled at the University of Illinois where he received the Ph.D. in 1950.

John's first full-time teaching position was at the University of Rochester (1948-1957) where he taught, among other courses, upper-division classes in public administration. Why would John Millett teach public administration? He did because Rochester hired him for that. As John would remind colleagues with grim humor, his dissertation, after all, was entitled "Public Employee Unionism in Downstate Illinois Municipalities." His training in public administration notwithstanding, John discovered his true interests at Rochester--British and comparative politics, "the Behavioral Revolution" (words and emphasis his), group theory, and Arthur Bentley, probably in that order.

To further his interests in British politics and group theory, John did research in England on the British Legion during the 1954-55 academic year on a fellowship from the Fund for the Advancement of Education. (John had many stories to tell of his voyage aboard the Queen Mary) The fellowship led to publication in the Western Political Quarterly of "The Role of an Interest Group Leader in the House of Commons," the work for which John is best known. The article was reprinted in Heinz Eulau and John Wahlke's Legislative Behavior and was also cited in many bibliographies dealing with British politics or group theory.

John came to what was the University of Wichita in September 1957 and remained until his retirement in May 1984, save for the 1964-65 academic year when he filled in for John Kautsky, who was on leave from Washington University. Vice president of the Midwest Political Science Association during 1974-75, John was a professional political scientist in every sense, but he was also much more. He was a man who loved learning. He told the local Pi Sigma Alpha members at his retirement of his visit to the University of Virginia near the end of World War II. It was his first visit to a campus since the war began. So overjoyed to be at a center of learning once again, John expressed this joy by rolling down a hill.

As a man of learning, John endeavored to pass on his erudition to his students. At Wichita State John was director of the Honors Program from 1968 through the spring of 1971. Encouraging his students to pursue a broad liberal education, John admonished them not to concentrate all of their academic effort within the narrow confines of a major. One of John's students, Wes McCarty, religiously followed John's advice and sought to become a well-rounded student. When Wes died untimely of leukemia, his parents, remembering John's work with Wes, established an endowed departmental scholarship in honor of Wes which specified that the recipients were to pursue a broad liberal education. In reality the scholarship was as much a memorial to John Millett as to Wes McCarty. The creation of that scholarship led to the establishment of several other endowed scholarships for undergraduates. John was also known for his role as adviser to Pi Sigma Alpha. The induction of members was no casual matter for John. Instead, he arranged an annual induction banquet which he saw as an august and solemn rite.

John retired from Wichita State in May of 1984. The department planned a grand gala to honor him. Political scientists and former students from around the country were planning to attend John's retirement celebration. But John's doctor advised him that he needed immediate by-pass surgery if he were to live. So the departmental chair called invited guests around the country to tell them that the celebration has been cancelled. John's retirement party was rescheduled for May of 1985, but it was anti-climatic. For many years John believed that his doctors had conspired against him to deny him his retirement party.

Despite his disappointment over the cancelled retirement fete and his failing health in his last years, John had a good life in retirement. He and his wife Marie, whom he had married on June 1, 1975, moved to Sarasota in 1986. Active in Grapevine International Folk Dancers and other dance groups since the time of his marriage, John had a longtime dream come true when he and Marie took a folk dance tour of Greece during his retirement. Until just a few months before his death, John and Marie folk danced as often as four evenings a week.

Aside from folk dancing, John followed the stock market closely, just as his father, an Episcopal minister, had done. When his congregation cut the Rev. Mr. Millett's salary during the depression, the minister took to playing the stock market to make up the difference. The Rev. Mr. Millett made such handsome profits that a nicely sum of John's retirement income came from investments John inherited from his father. For years John touted the shares of Hesston Corp., a Kansas manufacturer of farm machinery. Hesston did not prosper, and John lost money. Yet he maintained his interest in the market and endured much good-natured ribbing about the fate of Hesston.

A strong supporter of the Unitarian Universalist fellowship in Wichita-believe in one God at most," John would proclaim--John was an active Unitarian in Sarasota as well. But this erudite man with a liberal education also found time for other pursuits. He took piano lessons. A friend who visited him at the "Millett Hilton" recalls him "proudly playing Bach, Chopin, and Haydn pieces in recitals with students of all ages." He became an expert on the birds of Florida and attended the Sarasota Music Festival every June. He even found time to volunteer as a paraprofessional at a pre-school and to serve on its Board of Directors. Those wishing to honor the memory of John may make a contribution to that pre-school, Helen R. Payne Day Nursery, P.O. Box 3365, Sarasota, Fla. 34230, or to the Unitarian Universalist Church, 3975 Fruitville Road, Sarasota, FL 34232.

Kenneth N. Ciboski

David N. Farnsworth (emeritus)

Melvin A. Kahn

James W. McKenney

James F. Sheffield, Jr.

John E. Stanga

Wichita State University
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Title Annotation:In Memoriam
Author:Ciboski, Kenneth N.; Farnsworth, David N.; Kahn, Melvin A.; McKenney, James W.; Sheffield, James F.,
Publication:PS: Political Science & Politics
Date:Jun 1, 1997
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