Dr. E. Milton Wheeler
July 23, 1939 - March 24, 2014
Dr. E. Milton Wheeler, a servant of God, husband, friend, teacher, Rotarian, and lover of people, athletics and knowledge, passed away after an extended illness on March 24, 2014.
Visitation for Dr. Wheeler will begin on Sunday, March 30 at 1 p.m. and continue until 2:45 p.m. in Bass Memorial Chapel on the William Carey University campus in Hattiesburg. Funeral services will follow at 3 p.m. in Smith Auditorium of the Thomas Fine Arts Center. Dr. Tommy King, president of WCU, will officiate.
Dr. Wheeler devoted 55 years of his life to WCU, where he was a student and a professor. In addition to his role as professor of history, Dr. Wheeler served for seven years as dean of the School of Arts and Sciences, for two years as vice president for student development and for five years as vice president for academic affairs. He was named outstanding faculty member numerous times and served for 36 years as the faculty athletic representative for the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics.
He was born in Mobile, Ala., on July 23, 1939, and graduated from Vigor High School before beginning his studies at then-William Carey College. While a student at Carey, Dr. Wheeler was editor of The Cobbler student newspaper and won a Woodrow Wilson Fellowship to attend graduate school. He recalled in a 2006 interview that his favorite moment while a student at Carey was "being editor of The Cobbler and winning the prize for being the best newspaper among small colleges in the nation."
Upon his graduation with summa cum laude honors from Carey in 1961, Dr. Wheeler enrolled at Tulane University. He earned his M.A. and Ph.D. degrees from Tulane before beginning his 51-year-long career as a professor at Carey in September 1963.
It was at Carey that Dr. Wheeler met the love of his life, his "sweet Donna," Donna Rose Duck, of Bay Minette, Ala. Their 48-year-long marriage was a testament to the institution of marriage itself. During Donna's long battle with brain cancer, Dr. Wheeler never left her side, even though he was plagued by his own persistent health concerns.
Both of the Wheelers were honored by Carey for leaving a "legacy of love" during 2006's centennial celebrations. In addition to leaving behind lasting impressions of Christian character and kindness, the Wheelers donated approximately $2.3 million to the place they both served for five decades.
Dr. Wheeler's love of Carey Crusader baseball knew no bounds. A fan since his student days, he was a consistent and vocal supporter of not only the baseball team but all athletic teams at the university. Milton Wheeler Baseball Field, dedicated in 2006, is named in his honor. For his countless contributions to Carey Athletics, Dr. Wheeler was inducted into Carey's Athletic Hall of Fame earlier this year.
Dr. Wheeler's love for travel also knew no bounds. He led over a hundred trips to Europe, many tours of the Holy Land and many other tours that included Australia, New Zealand, the Orient, the United States, Russia and areas of Latin America. He also was a visiting lecturer in Russian universities and was supportive of the Kindness Foundation which promotes study of the Bible in Russian schools.
Dr. Wheeler was a charter member of the Rotary Club of Petal, joining when the club was formed on March 31, 1972. He was a Rotarian with perfect attendance, attending club meetings all over the world. He served in many offices and chairs throughout his years in Rotary, including governor of Rotary District 6840 from 1989-1990 and again from 2007-2008. He was awarded the Avenue of Service Citation from Rotary International in 1999-2000 and in 2013 received the Citation for Meritorious Service, one of only 50 awards given worldwide per year.
He was a longtime member of First Baptist Church of Hattiesburg, where he was a deacon and Sunday school teacher. Dr. Wheeler was also the teacher on "Living Waters," the longest-running local television program, for 27 years.
Preceding Dr. Wheeler in death were his wife, Donna Duck Wheeler; and his parents, E. K. and Lucy Wheeler.
Survivors include sisters-in-law, Darlene Cook (David) of Thomasville, Ga., and Judy Wade (Mike) of Bay Minette; numerous cousins; an extended family of students who viewed the Wheelers as parent figures; as well as countless friends around the world.
In lieu of flowers, the family requests memorials be made to the William Carey University Student Scholarship, WCU 141, 498 Tuscan Avenue, Hattiesburg, MS 39401.
Published in The Sun Herald from Mar. 27 to Mar. 28, 2014