David Miller — Feb. 2010
Waubonsee Featured Alumnus Dedicated to Service
Sugar Grove – One of Waubonsee Community College's core values is service, and the same can be said of the school's Featured Alumnus for February, David Miller, of Oswego. Miller has dedicated himself to serving both his country and the cause of cancer research.
Miller graduated from Oswego High School in 2001 and while he knew he would go to college someday, he was not ready for it right away. Instead he joined the Army.
"The decision was definitely worth it," Miller said. "It was a growing experience."
During his four years of active duty, Miller served in Korea, Afghanistan and at Fort Drum in New York. But in 2005, he was ready to come back to civilian life and enroll in higher education.
"Community college seemed the best way to start," he said. "It didn't seem to make sense to go to a larger school right away."
The small class sizes and Waubonsee faculty made the transition a bit easier.
"Getting back into school was slightly difficult, but the instructors were really helpful," Miller said. "The smaller classrooms allowed me to engage in discussions versus being a spectator. Waubonsee as an institution does an outstanding job catering to students' needs. The professors reflect the warm and friendly atmosphere present throughout the campus."
As welcoming as Waubonsee's campus was, Miller still had a desire to see the world and experience other cultures. He decided to study abroad in the summer of 2006, taking a Spanish immersion and history class in Costa Rica.
After graduating from Waubonsee with an associate degree in May 2007, Miller transferred on to the University of Illinois where he decided to spend some time seeing more of his country. Wanting to make his senior summer memorable, he got involved with the Illini 4000 (I4K), a 66-day, 4,000-mile cross-country bike ride to raise funds for the American Cancer Research Fund and summer camps for children whose parents have been affected by cancer.
"The I4K's motive behind the ride was honestly not the first thing on my mind, but then within a few weeks of the 2008-09 school year starting, my grandmother was diagnosed with cancer," Miller said. "Helping those suffering with the disease quickly became important to me. In my mind, riding across country no longer represented some vacation. The ride transformed into a symbol of hope for those struggling with cancer."
There were other reasons the ride was hardly a vacation — waking up at 6 a.m., riding an average of 70 to 80 miles a day, eating peanut butter and jelly sandwiches for lunch nearly every day, and sleeping in churches and community centers. Plus, there was the fact that Miller, as a novice bike rider, fell at least once a day for the first two weeks of the ride, trying to get used to the special shoes that attach to the pedals. Still, he feels it was all worth it given the money raised, the people met and the sights seen between New York and Oregon.
"It was great to see how nice people were, even complete strangers," Miller said. "Once they realized what we were doing and why, even in a down economy, people were still willing to donate to a good cause."
Miller was the ride's treasurer and, in fact, graduated with a bachelor's degree in accounting in May 2009. He is currently in his fourth year with the U.S. Army Reserves and expects to be deployed overseas later this year.