Roston Miels Smith, Jr. Charleston - Roston Miels Smith, Jr., a brilliant and beloved educator, passed
away peacefully on December 19 from lymphoma. He was 72 years old. Born on December 10, 1945, in
Anderson, South Carolina, Miels was the only son of the late Roston Miels Smith and Ethel Hunt Smith.
After one year at Anderson Boys' High, he graduated in 1964 from T.L. Hanna High School. Miels then
realized his dream of attending Clemson University, where he earned undergraduate and graduate
degrees in mathematics. While still at Clemson, he accepted a position at T.L. Hanna, and launched what
became a 44-year-long career in teaching secondary school mathematics. In 1971, he moved to Mount
Berry, Georgia, where he taught at Berry Academy, founded in 1902 by Miss Martha Berry. Miels's years at
this tradition-rich school prepared him well for subsequent positions at Baylor School in Chattanooga,
Tennessee, and Ashley Hall in Charleston. Miels spent the last 21 years of his teaching career at Ashley
Hall, where his devotion to his students and his passionate commitment to their success became
Rain or shine, he could be seen in bowtie and cap, cycling or walking from his home on Bull Street to the
nearby campus. As an educator, Miels was inspirational and entertaining. He presented new concepts by
referencing an imaginary group of "home school girls" and describing their reactions to the material at
hand. His introduction of the infamous calculus hotline was one of the many ways he positioned his
students for success.
An ardent environmentalist, Miels extended the beauty and order of math beyond the classroom, leading
his students on fun-filled beach sweeps and trips to Bears Bluff Road. As a colleague and friend, he was
lively, loving, and loyal, engaging in every aspect of school life. Most importantly, he demonstrated
unconditional respect for each of his students, all of whom were empowered by his belief that "every worker
must decide for herself". As an expression of the high regard in which he was held, Miels was asked to
give the commencement address in 2012, a fitting end to an extraordinary career.
In his honor, Ashley Hall has named a newly created faculty award the Miels Smith Award for Teaching
Excellence. It will be given annually to an active faculty member who, in rising to Miels's high standards,
exemplifies teaching excellence, values the cultivation of personal relationships with students, and has
made a multifaceted impact on both the school and its students.
Miels's activities extended well beyond the classroom. He supported a variety of causes and was a
member of the ACLU, Common Cause, the Sierra Club, Greenpeace, the Democratic party, AFFA, the
National Council of Teachers of Mathematics, SCTM, the Mathematical Association of America, and the
North Carolina Association of AP Math Teachers. He was a member of St. John's United Methodist Church
in Anderson for 62 years. A constant throughout Miels's life was his devotion to his alma mater. His
Clemson roommates, George Robinson of Seneca and Dr. Bruce Simmons of Hickory, North Carolina,
became lifelong friends, along with classmate Glenn Cox of Pawleys Island.
Miels supported academics through annual gifts and athletics through IPTAY, which he joined in 1968.
Clemson football was Miels's passion. He saw his first game in the 1950s, in the original configuration of
Death Valley, when the Tigers took on Presbyterian College. In subsequent seasons, games in Clemson
and Atlanta were especially memorable, along with the 1982 Orange Bowl, and multiple Gator and Peach
Bowls. Miels attended many of these games with Glenn Cox and his wife, Myra. In 2016, he followed the
Tigers to Glendale, Arizona for the 2016 College Football National Championship, cheering them on to a
near upset of the Crimson Tide. Undeterred by their eventual loss, Miels joined with other fans the following
year in chartering an airplane to Tampa, Florida, for a rematch of the two teams in the 2017 national
championship game. There, he experienced one of the high points of his life in witnessing Clemson's
comeback victory over Alabama and their ascendance to the pinnacle of college football.
Miels's multitude of friends benefited from this same loyalty, coupled with a kind and compassionate spirit.
He was devoted to Rick Cumbee, his best bud in Charleston. The two went through a lot together and
enjoyed good times spread over several decades. During Miels's years on Bull Street, his neighbors
benefited not only from his friendship but also from his meticulous stewardship of the grounds of the
historic Huchet House, in which he lived, and of the surrounding area; his final residence in Byrnes Down
abounded with lovingly tended plants.
An admirable attention to detail and a droll sense of humor contributed to Miels's flair for gracious living,
and he entertained with a warm decorum reminiscent of days gone by. Although his life was cut short,
Miels has left an enduring legacy. His far-reaching influence as an educator and his steadfast loyalty as a
friend touched countless lives; his memory will be kept alive by many.
Miels is survived by two sisters, Patricia Lee Smith Kohler (Robert) of Wadmalaw, South Carolina, and
Margaret Ross Smith Whitlock (Ralph) of Thomasville, North Carolina; two nieces, Valerie Ross Whitlock
Leesch (Jim) of Chicago, Illinois, and Patricia Coleen Strasburger (Gus) of Columbia, South Carolina; one
nephew, Edwin Hoyt Pettus (Barbara) of Princeton, West Virginia; three great-nieces, Lauren Bailey Ward of
New York City, Sarah Lyn Pettus of Columbia, South Carolina, and Megan Lee Pettus of Washington, D.C.;
two great-nephews, Owen Jefferson Leesch and Gerald Alexander Leesch of Chicago; and a very close
first cousin, Sally Hunt of Charlotte, North Carolina.
Visitation will be held in Charleston from 5:00 to 7:00 p.m. on Tuesday, December 26, at J. Henry Stuhr
Downtown Chapel, 232 Calhoun Street. A graveside funeral service will be held at 11 a.m. on Wednesday,
December 27, in the cemetery of Pond Branch United Methodist Church, 1913 Pond Branch Road, Gilbert,
South Carolina 29054. Memorial gifts may be made to Ashley Hall School, 172 Rutledge Avenue,
Charleston, South Carolina 29403.