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Mr. Roston Miels Smith, Jr.

Mr. Roston Miels Smith, Jr.
  • December 10, 1945 - December 19, 2017
  • Charleston, South Carolina
  • Memorial gifts may be made to:
  • Ashley Hall School
    172 Rutledge Avenue
    Charleston, SC 29403

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“The obituary for Miels written by his niece beautifully captured the essence of this unassuming, gentle and caring man. I met Miels many years ago...Read More »
1 of 8 | Posted by: Bob Roggow - Longmont,, CO

“Thinking of you in your loss. He was my friend for a long time, and I loved him, too. Mary Ellen ”
2 of 8 | Posted by: Mary Ellen MacGregor - Charleston, SC

“We are praying for you and your family. May the Lord continue to bring you peace and comfort. Amedisys Hospice ”
3 of 8 | Posted by: Amedisys Hospice - Friend

“So sorry to learn this. When we didn't get a Christmas card I knew something was wrong. Loved hearing from him and what was going on in his life and...Read More »
4 of 8 | Posted by: Gail Roach Long - Anderson, SC

“Miels wasa one of a kind. Proud of his Clemson Tigers, Ashley Hall, Charleston and his family. He was one of the care takers of Bull and Rutledge Ave...Read More »
5 of 8 | Posted by: Roy DeHaven - Charleston, SC

“We were so blessed to have been neighbors with such a wonderful caring person!! He kept our lemon tree flourishing, loved our dog, and kept the...Read More »
6 of 8 | Posted by: Sara Ritchie - Charleston, SC

Some memories of Miels from Camp Pathfinder and Baylor. “Miels was a great friend, and an inspiration to me as a teacher. I convinced him to spend a great many summers in Algonquin Park, Ontario, as a camp...Read More »
7 of 8 | Posted by: Dan Kennedy - Chattanooga, TN

“My life is infinitely richer for having known you. You will forever be in my heart! Your BEST BUD ”
8 of 8 | Posted by: Rick Cumbee - Friend


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 1916 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 legendary. 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

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