Gary Miller:

IT consultant, College of Pharmacy

Years at OSU: 19

Hometown: Salem

Gary Miller of the OSU College of Pharmacy jokes that part of the reason he could hit the ground running when COVID-19 upended society is because “my partner and I realized we already lived the pandemic lifestyle.”

“We only go shopping once or twice a month for food,” he said. “We keep three months or more of supplies on hand, and we don’t generally eat out.”

Miller is a one-person IT team for the College of Pharmacy, supporting roughly 100 faculty and staff and about 370 students in Portland and Corvallis, but deflects credit to a range of colleagues when it comes to ensuring the college continues to thrive in the era of remote teaching, learning and working.

Among those people are Andrea Friesen, recently promoted to operations manager for the college; Eliza Allison and Anne Taylor from the college’s Student Services office; Theresa Filtz and JJ Furuno, the college’s two department heads; and Nic Bookman and Tanya Ostrogorsky, who took the lead in helping organize academic assessment needs.

“This would not have been possible without all of the people who stepped up to the challenge,” he said. “I also rely on my Qinan prayer beads. I use them to keep mindful when things get rough.”

The college’s executive associate dean, Gary DeLander, says Miller is a great example of someone who has continually maintained his skill set and readiness and notes his ability to triumph in seemingly no-win situations.

“He’s working to provide a continuum of support while constantly being pulled away to the latest emergency,” DeLander said. “When our technology doesn’t work, we are in the middle of using it, creating a crisis. This has only been amplified in the past few weeks. Our first outreach is nearly always to Gary and he always responds.”

Miller started prepping his home office space the week of March 6 -- he encouraged others to do the same -- and set up a spare room at home as his “command center,” using an iMac and monitor originally destined for the OSU surplus store.

“Surprisingly, it runs a few Zoom meetings at once with a virtual background,” he said. “I started sending folks my scheduling link to make it really easy to set up meetings and group trainings.”

Miller has helped members of the college track down equipment to use at home and has assisted students in lining up free internet access.

"He's always fantastic, and he has been amazing during the COVID situation," Filtz said.

Among the biggest challenges of doing his job during the pandemic, Miller says, are “trying not to work too much, getting used to wearing headphones all of the time, and choosing the right tools.”

“I was torn, for example, between sticking with Slack or setting up Microsoft Teams, OSU’s new platform replacing Skype business,” he said. “Everyone is flocking to Slack because they have used it outside of work. Over the summer when our program has limited courses, we can work on setting up a Microsoft Teams. 

“I’m just trying to make working from home a success for as many people as possible,” he added. “My No. 1 recommendation was take your office chair home and pay attention to ergonomics. For the most part, any software-based troubleshooting has been very similar as before the pandemic -- if not easier now that folks are all using Zoom and can share their screen.”

~ Steve Lundeberg

Have an OSU Unsung Hero suggestion? We are looking for submissions that highlight OSU employees and students who are not typically in the spotlight but are going above and beyond during this pandemic. Send your suggestions to [email protected] and our staff may contact them to conduct remote interviews that we would feature in OSU Today and elsewhere.