Except for her college years and a first job in the Dallas area, Judith Ruie Gilbert Miller spent her whole life in Houston, Texas. The oldest child of Paul and Ruie Gilbert, she grew up with three younger brothers. Family members say Judy was a quiet, shy child and a straight-A student. She enjoyed spending time with her grandmother, Ruie Campbell, also a Houston resident.
After graduating from Milby High School in 1961, she followed in both parents’ footsteps. Like her mother, whose alma mater was the University of Houston, Judy earned her bachelor’s degree in education, but her college choice was Southwestern University in Georgetown, Texas, where her father had obtained a business degree. She later received her master’s degree in school administration from Stephen F. Austin State University.
Her first teaching position was in Garland, Texas where she met and married Gene Miller. After six years in Garland, Judy taught a year in Pasadena. Following a move to the Alief community and the birth of son, Jeffrey, she stayed at home with her baby until 1974, when she was hired as a second grade teacher at Smith Elementary.
The once-timid young woman blossomed into a leader. Judy was chosen as an assistant principal at Kennedy Elementary in 1979, and two years later, as its principal. Tapped to open Hearne Elementary in 1987, she remained at the helm there until 1993, when she became principal at Petrosky Elementary.
There is a consensus on two prominent points among all who knew Judy Miller: she loved children, and she loved her job. As Jeffrey Miller said, “My mother dedicated her life to education and to kids.”
She would arrive at work at 6:30 a.m. and pack her own calendar until it overflowed with tasks she felt were necessary to meet her high standards. Organization and planning ahead were some of those tasks.
Watching Judy with children, anyone could see that she had a genuine affection for them. Many people speak of her ways of greeting students by name as they came to school each day, valuing children as individuals, and cheering them on to keep trying until goals were reached. Former students often returned to visit with her.
She was also a mentor to less experienced fellow educators, guiding them in their career development. Associates name her ever-p[resent sense of humor, empathy, compassion, patience, fairness, and her ability to think through situations before making important decisions as some of Judy’s memorable traits. Many mutually cherished friendships came about.
Cancer may have claimed Judy Miller’s life in 1998, but she never surrendered her indomitable spirit. She battled the disease with as much vigor as she could muster, just as she devoted all her energy to educating the children of Alief ISD for 24 years.