History of the Vaden W. Miles Memorial Lecture Series

Mrs. Maxine Miles established the Vaden W. Miles Memorial Lectureship in Physics in memory of her late husband, Professor Vaden Willis Miles. Professor Vaden Miles was an excellent teacher in the Department of Physics & Astronomy. He was known for conveying concepts of physics in an exciting manner and was the co-author of a popular textbook on conceptual physics.

During the annual Vaden W. Miles Memorial event, a distinguished physicist is invited to present a lecture with the purpose of inspiring, educating, and promoting physics and astronomy to students, the WSU Community, and the general public. A stipulation of the annual lectureship is that the guest speaker also spends time with physics students in an informal setting where they can discuss physics and astronomy topics and career paths.

Naturalist, philanthropist, world traveler, teacher, hiker - a woman with an inquisitive mind and a big heart - many organizations and individuals have benefited from the generosity of Maxine Miles. "I have always been delighted at the prospect of a new day, a fresh try, one more start, with perhaps a bit of magic waiting somewhere behind the morning."

The remarkable legacy of Maxine Miles

Maxine Smith (Miles) was born April 1, 1907, in Stanley, Iowa, to Mordecai and Meda Eddy Smith, but spent most of her childhood on a farm in northern Illinois. In 1920, her family moved to Rockford, Illinois. There, Maxine attended and graduated from the prestigious Frances Shimer Academy.

Maxine later attended and graduated from Rockford College and the University of Wisconsin receiving her master's degree in zoology in 1937. She taught at  Rockford High during the school year, and to further her education, spent summers at the University of Washington, Seattle, and the University of Michigan Biological Station. It was during a visit to the University of Michigan Biological Station that she met Vaden Willis Miles. 

Maxine and Vaden were married in 1941 and subsequently moved to Ann Arbor, Michigan. Vaden attended and completed his Ph.D. in physics at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor. Vaden accepted various teaching positions at Cranbrook Academy, Boston University, and the University of Indiana. Eventually, Vaden and Maxine returned to Michigan (Ann Arbor) where Vaden accepted a professorship in Physical Science at Wayne State University, Detroit, Michigan. 

As a couple, they had many interests. Together they traveled the world; were founding members of the Washtenaw Audubon Society; and, in 1957 Maxine was elected a member of the Board of Directors of the State and Washtenaw County chapters of the National Audubon Society. She was an outstanding member of these organizations and a chairperson of their educational committees. In this capacity, Maxine was instrumental in helping to integrate environmental concepts into the Ann Arbor Public School by working with the Board of Education to initiate a program similar to that which was initially developed by Bill Stapp. (Bill Stapp was known as the founder of environmental education). This program was the first comprehensive K-12 conservation and outdoor education program established in the United States. In 1959, the program was permanently implemented, and Maxine was a volunteer for over 30 years, guiding sixth graders on nature and science excursions. 

Maxine and Vaden had long been interested in setting aside local nature preserves, and following Vaden's death in 1974, Maxine worked to carry out this goal. Along with the Audubon Society and the Washtenaw Land Conservancy, and aided by the Vaden Miles Memorial Fund, the Osbourne Mills Riverland Preserve was purchased. Fuller Searles Nature Preserve was also obtained while she was chairwoman of the Washtenaw Land Acquisition Committee. In addition, on her farmland in Illinois, she established a conservation project setting aside land as prairie, which contains rare plants and a three-acre lake with wetlands. 

The University of Michigan Botanical Gardens has been a recipient of Maxine's boundless energies and knowledge, and for many years she was a docent, propagator of plants, and a chairwoman of the Pressed Flower Group. The Botanical Gardens, friends, and craft fairs have been the beneficiaries of her pressed flower cards.

 In 1999, she was awarded the Ann Arbor Community Lifetime Achievement Award in recognition of the United Nations International Year of the Older Person. The recognition ceremony was held at Rackham and included a presentation by Journalist, Daniel Schorr. 

Maxine was a member of the First Congregational Church, the University of Michigan Faculty Hiking Group, Ann Arbor Audubon Society, and the P. E. O. Sisterhood (Chapter CH). As a member of the P.E.O. Sisterhood, she actively participated in their Bed and Breakfast endeavors raising money for educational scholarships for women. 

Maxine died peacefully at University Living on January 25, 2009. She was 101 years old. She is survived by her daughter Neesa Hoskin, her son-in-law Roger and grandchildren, Ryan and Lauren of Falls Church, VA.