Roger B. Mills '64
For all of his life, the love of music and mathematics were intertwined for Roger B. Mills '64 of Glenview, Illinois. At Ripon College, he was able to major in both, and this only enhanced his appreciation.
"I began to really understand the relationship between music and mathematics," he says. "Both exhibit a high degree of structure and form, recurrent patterns, and similarities in both scope and beauty."
He credits his liberal arts education at Ripon for the success he has had during his lifetime, and he now has established a major multi-faceted endowment at Ripon to support both music and mathematics. He, and his wife, Joanne, have created, in perpetuity, the Endowed Visiting Artist and Performing Arts Artist and Event Fund. In addition, Endowed Full Scholarships in both music and mathematics were created, also in perpetuity, for well-deserving students in those fields.
These will provide scholarships for students studying music and mathematics, as well as funding to bring distinguished artists/lecturers-in-residence and performing artists to the Ripon College community. Student representatives will be involved in many aspects regarding the selection of the artists who will visit campus and they will benefit from the required interaction with the artists.
Mills says that he came to appreciate the education he received at Ripon as
he grew older. "When you're younger, you're too busy setting up your life
and family to think about it," he says. "When you reach your elder years,
you finally gain a bit of wisdom that has been nurturing for years. The
more I thought back on it, the more I appreciated my Ripon education and
more clearly understood its importance. A lot of what I've been able to do
in life, I attribute to a thematic direction instilled by my education at
After earning a master's degree in music from Northwestern University, Mills had a long career teaching both music and mathematics at New Trier High School and establishing programs at schools in his home state of Illinois. He left teaching in 1994 to open his own successful business in computer work. He sold that business in 2015.
"Now, I'm sort of retired from formal employment," he says. "I still tutor many students in mathematics. I keep going."
With these new endowments, Mills hopes to provide future Ripon students with many of the benefits he enjoyed here. "There are a number of things I think Ripon does very well - its small setting, individual attention, personal relationships with professors," he says.
"Exposure to all sorts of different things is what happens at Ripon. At a university, you are more attuned to your major subject and that's it. Ripon puts emphasis on a whole assortment of subjects. That's the beauty of the Ripon education, where knowledge is absorbed much like through osmosis, and disseminates itself throughout life."
More than anything else, music and the performing arts touch the heart. Mathematical proof touches the mind similarly. When you're listening to a concert, it's touching you in ways you can't even imagine. The same in mathematics. When you are following a mathematical proof, your mind is being pulled toward a destiny, taking circuitive routes and joy, to the final conclusion. The need to expose students to a multitude of topics is resounding. We all need to be allowed access to an unending variety of opportunities, each of which can be ready to be appreciated at a later time."
When he was a teacher, Mills says, he wanted to instill in his students the idea that a prime purpose of a college education is to learn how to learn. "Ripon gave me the tools to continue my education," he says. "One of the things is exposure to ideas. Ripon exposed me to a lot of different things. As I developed through life, Ripon was right there with me. Ripon is the place where it all started. This was a special place to do something special."
Mills said, "I hope others will be challenged to find interesting ways to blend the Ripon philosophy with the reality of the result."