Betsey and Larry Miller have been been named the 2018 Distinguished Friends of the Festival and were honored at the Festival’s Final Forte Winners in Concert, June 9th at the Thrasher Opera House in Green Lake.
Betsey and Larry Miller have been actively involved in Green Lake and Ripon since the early 1960s. They built their first house in Green Lake in 1962, but in 1996 moved to “Mil-Hunt Farm,” located on a beautiful ridge between Green Lake and Ripon.
Betsey and Larry are both graduates of UW-Oshkosh. They went to high school together in Oshkosh but did not begin to date each other until college. As they say, “the rest is history;” they married in 1954. They both began their teaching careers in Fond du Lac, and after four years, Larry matriculated to Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois, where he completed both Master’s and Doctorate degrees in Education. Betsey taught in the Lake Forest, Illinois, School District and attended summer school at Northwestern University while Larry studied. The Millers moved to Green Lake in 1961 when Larry accepted a teaching position at Ripon College, and Betsey became involved with community activities and the process of starting a family. They have two daughters, Jodie and Darcie, and two granddaughters, Maycie and Chase.
Ripon College and the local Communities probably did not realize how lucky they were to claim this young, bright, and enthusiastic couple when the Millers chose to make the area their long-term home. Betsey’s musical talent began at a young age. She was blessed with a beautiful soprano voice, which she is still sharing today with various choral groups. She became actively involved with the Ripon College Choral Union, conducted by Dr. Douglas Morris. Through that involvement, Betsey became aware of the early discussions that were taking place between Dr. Morris and other Festival founders that launched the Green Lake Festival of Music in 1979. These discussions also led to the Festival’s first “Choral Workshop,” which began in 1982, featuring the renowned English conductor, Sir David Willcocks. Betsey says she remembers what a taskmaster Sir David could be at rehearsals but that he showed his warm personality at the choral “afterglow” parties. His smile, she said, has stayed with her through all these years. Betsey continued her participation in the Choral Institute, now conducted by Dr. Stephen Alltop, and she speaks of him as a kind, positive, and encouraging conductor. We hope Betsey will continue her involvement by participating in the 2018 Festival’s inaugural “Composer Residency” program to be conducted by Ripon College Director of Choral Activities, Dr. John Hughes. Not only did Betsey support and sing in the majority of the Festival’s choral programs, she also participated in seven of the eight choral tours to Poland, Great Britain, Central Europe, and Canada. Her adventurous spirit, enthusiasm, and joyous attitude made it fun having Betsey as part of the Festival’s traveling groups. Betsey has also been a very active member of the Festival’s Friends (volunteers) organization, stuffing envelopes, preparing food, arranging flowers, ushering at concerts, and hosting Festival artists.
Larry has had a very successful career in the field of Education. He served as an Instructor at Northwestern University while working on his advanced degrees. He has been a visiting lecturer at universities including UW— Madison, served as an educational consultant for universities and school districts, and chaired the Ripon College Education Dept. He retired from the college in 1995. Through the years Larry was a strong supporter of Betsey’s involvement with the Festival and in retirement has become more actively involved, now serving as an Associate Board Member of the Green Lake Festival of Music. The Millers offered their beautiful home for the Festival’s gala in the summer of 2015. They had a large tent in their yard for the meal and a display of auction items throughout their house, all on a 90+ degree day! For the past few years they have invited the Chamber Music Camp students to their home for a pizza and ice cream social with the assistance of Dr. Barry Rogers and his fire truck-turned-pizza-oven, and they have also served lasagna dinners to the students with the help of daughter Jodie and Scott Booras. As part of these evenings Larry has also invited the students on a conservation walk through their property. An passionate advocate of environmental awareness, Larry utilizes the farm for educational projects such as tours for the schoolchildren of the Ripon Schools and supports an independent study program for Ripon High School students. Boy Scout troops and other interested environmental groups are always welcome at Mil-Hunt Farm. Larry is a past chair of the Green Lake Sanitary Committee that was involved in solving the problem of chemical and other run-off material from the farms and homes surrounding the lake. This project eventually resulted in establishing a sewage system that protects this beautiful glacial lake. While serving on the board of the Green Lake Conference Center, Larry helped that organization toward setting up a private sanitation system for their facility.
There is a lot of “horsing around” at the Mil-Hunt Farm since it is located in the middle of a horse community where the Millers have hosted several professional horse events. Daughter Jodie and daughter Darcie, with husband Ron and granddaughter Chase, are involved in both national and international horse competitions.
The American psychologist, Abraham Maslow says, “the great lesson of life is that the sacred is in the ordinary, that it is to be found in one’s daily life, in one’s neighbors, friends, and family, in one’s backyard.” Betsey and Larry Miller have found the “sacred” in their beautiful backyard and among their friends and neighbors in their local communities. The Festival is very proud and appreciative to have Betsey and Larry as generous and involved participants in our organization. It is always a pleasure to see their joyous and smiling faces at Festival events, and it is a great privilege to honor them as the 2018 Distinguished Friends of the Green Lake Festival of Music.
Sylvia Richards, Festival Historian – May, 2018