In September 1922, Dwight Miner entered Columbia College's freshman class. In June 1973, he retired as one of the College's most famous professors. Along the way, Miner quite happily became completely identified with the institution, earning the sobriquet "Mr. Columbia."
Like his older contemporary, Irwin Edman, Miner spent his childhood in Morningside Heights, virtually in the shadow of the College. On his first day as a freshman, he joined Professor Rexford Tugwell's section of Contemporary Civilization. A few years later, as a young instructor in the history department, Miner began teaching CC, and continued throughout his career. "There has to be some kind of senior representation in a class of this sort," he once remarked. "It is a very important course if properly taught." An expert on America in the twentieth century, Miner also edited the bicentennial history of the College in 1954 and became the foremost authority on the history of Columbia.
In the 1920s, John Coss identified Miner as a potentially great college teacher. And so it proved. Students flocked to him because of his learning, his dramatic flair in class, and his basic humanity. Miner maintained a certain courtliness (students were always addressed as "Mister"), but he was also friendly, making a point of taking each of his students to lunch during the year. For Miner's CC sections, more students were turned away than made it in. His colloquium on American history became a favorite upperclass course.
The secret of Miner's appeal wasn't hard to identify. "Fundamentally," he gladly acknowledged, "I just like to be with freshmen, at least those I usually encounter in the College." Miner was regularly voted the College's most popular professor, and appeared on the cover of Time magazine as one of America's great teachers.