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Humans of Drake: Professor Chip Miller

Highlighting the stories of Drake students and faculty.

BY HALLIE O’NEILL

“I put three things on my resume: Gongfu, guns and reptiles.”

This is Professor Chip Miller, Sheehan distinguished professor of marketing in Drake’s College of Business and Public Administration. Apart from marketing, of course, these are three of his greatest infatuations.

Sitting in his office desk chair framed by Chinese bamboo calendars, he spoke of his fascination with Asia.

“I got involved in Chinese martial arts (Gongfu) when I was a freshman, and that stimulated all kinds of interesting things Chinese,” Miller said.

He’s explored many Chinese cities in addition to countries like Thailand, Japan, Korea and the Philippines, his wife’s home country. He incorporates many of his direct cultural experiences into his global marketing classes, which in turn become more “colorful,” as he says.

As for Gongfu, Miller was the backbone of Drake’s very own Gongfu club for many years before student interest fizzled out. The club is not in official existence today.

“Martial arts used to be most of my existence for about 45 years,” Miller said. “Now I’ve finally fallen apart to the point where I’m about ready to give that up.”

However, he still enjoys practicing Gongfu off and on in his spare time with the one engaged student left.

That brings us to the next item on the list: guns.

“I’m terrible with a shotgun, but I was the advisor of the sportsman’s club, and we spent most of our time going out to the local range shooting trap,” Miller said. “I couldn’t hit anything, but I like to have fun, so that was neat.”

His interest in reptiles began at an early age. As a young boy growing up in Topeka, Kansas, he’d catch box turtles, snakes and the occasional lizard — basically anything he could get his hands on. After keeping them as pets for a few months, he’d set them loose again.

In college, he met a friend who was simultaneously his Gongfu instructor and a herpetologist. Together, the duo started a reptile importing business in Florida.

“We’d get all kinds of exotic stuff,” Miller said. “Ours were colorful pythons from Asia most people hadn’t seen before and a few lizard species … This was back when you could still get wild animals without too much difficulty. We were hoping to breed them so, one, you don’t deplete the natural populations, and two, because it’s easier to control for a lot of things, but our skills of breeding never matched our ambitions.”

After a moment of labored contemplation, he decided his favorite reptiles are monitor lizards, which is a generic descriptive term. He regretted not wearing his Komodo dragon T-shirt, a species that falls under the monitor umbrella.

“Monitor lizards are a family of lizards that have everything from species of about nine inches long to Komodo dragons that are 10 feet long and 100 pounds,” he said with a chuckle. “I like the dwarves. They’re easier to take care of. They don’t require space. And if they get rowdy, I can’t get hurt by ’em.”

Miller’s love for Chinese tradition and practices persists, so he urges any students interested in Gongfu to come find him. The club, he said, is always up for reactivation.

“I’m still here,” he said. “I’m not going anywhere.”

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