November 18, 2017

Craig Miller Sr. builds foundation at Webster

Craig Miller Sr. fell in love with architecture at a young age. His passion began with a family talent for art.

“When I was a kid, I always loved to draw,” Miller said. “Before I could really draw well, my dad could draw well. He would draw things, if he did any kind of renovation around, he would sketch it.”

Miller said his father, who had experience as a carpenter and a welder, decided to add onto their two-bedroom house when Miller was around 12 years old. Miller had been sharing the room with his older sister at the time, and she eventually wanted a room of her own.

Miller assisted his father in constructing the added on parts of the house. His father drew up the construction plans and they went to work digging out the foundation. He enjoyed watching it come together so much he decided he wanted to get into architectural design and construction.

“It was just a bedroom and the rear porch as well, but it was amazing to see, from the foundation footings to the frame wall, and then the roof, and everything else that went into it,” Miller said. “That’s when I said ‘I want to do that.’”

When he entered high school, Miller signed up for a mechanical drafting course which would teach him the basics of drawing up and labeling blueprints for architectural designs.

“I loved drafting,” Miller said. “And back then, you did it all manually, there weren’t computers like there are today.”

Miller said his father had warned him about the “cyclical” nature of the building industry. Productivity would ebb and flow, and workers would be out of a job because of the industries recessions.

He told Miller to get into a field which involved current technology and computers, because he believed future careers would be based heavily on them.

“I didn’t listen to him, of course, and I even told him ‘It was your fault I want to be an architect because of all the drawing you used to do,’” Miller said.

After graduating from University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee in 1986 with a degree in Science in Architectural Studies, Miller started his career in the architectural industry. However, Miller soon found out the construction industry in St. Louis was going through a recession.

“When I came home, I couldn’t find work,” Miller said.

Miller did eventually find some part time work with a small firm which specialized in restaurant and small commercial design. After work slowed and came to a halt, Miller moved to Chicago to find more work and go to graduate school at the University of Illinois, Chicago.

When Miller obtained his graduate degree, he found himself in the middle of another recession. He turned to teaching for three years at Southern Illinois University, Carbondale before once again looking for work in his career field.

In the 2000s, Miller had worked at McCarthy Building Companies, Inc. where he met and befriended George Crow. Miller and Crow worked together on a number of construction projects, and continue to work together today.

“He’s really great to work with, he has a great understanding of the construction process,” Crow said.

Crow mentored Miller in his architectural education while he was at McCarthy, and the two now hold positions on the Building Enclosure Council.

“He’s pretty intelligent and a good learner,” Crow said. “He has a tremendous memory. He remembers the goals and the lessons well.”

Miller’s work at Webster eventually prompted Webster University president Elizabeth Stroble to nominate him for the annual St. Louis Business Journal’s Diverse Business Leader Award, which he received in September.

Representatives of the St. Louis Business Journal said recipients are chosen based on their entire body of work, which, in Miller’s case, began as soon as he started working at Webster.

After leaving McCarthy, Miller came to Webster, where he immediately began work on the East Academic Building (EAB) which began construction before his arrival. The EAB was just the first of a long line of projects, most recently the construction of the Interdisciplinary Sciences Building (ISB). 

“The left turn lane was a prerequisite for the parking garage, the parking garage was a prerequisite to build the science building,” Miller said. “The electrical customer substation, we had to have that in order to build or renovate any new major buildings on campus. And we needed the chiller plant plus the additional tonnage of cooling to support the new science building.”

All of these projects were finished in the six years Miller has been at Webster, culminating in the building of the ISB. The science building was completed this past summer and open in time for the beginning of the school year.

Miller said he wanted to acknowledge the dozens of people he had cooperated with with on the projects as well. He said being awarded for his work was both honoring and humbling.

“I was honored,” Miller said. “To be published in that magazine and be acknowledged by the Business Journal and the business community is an honor. And so I felt happy, all of my hard work, people acknowledged it. And I greatly appreciate it. So I’m very happy about it, very excited. I feel very grateful and humble.”

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