Lynn Miller Bequeaths Major Gift for Farmland Preservation

Donation is a 'game-changer' for organization



Lynn Miller, the late, distinguished landscape architect, professor and co-founder of the Centre County Farmland Trust, bequeathed a generous gift of $128,700 to the Trust to advance its land preservation mission.


In 1994, Miller worked with Centre County planners to establish the Trust, a non-profit organization. Then and now, the Trust provides a way for farmland owners to still preserve their land if it does not qualify for preservation under the county ag preservation program, known as Centre County Purchase of Agricultural Conservation Easement.


In 2015, Miller attended a CCFT annual meeting and saw a viable organization that by then had preserved several farms through conservation easements, and had 30 engaged people in attendance in addition to the Board of Trustees, said Derek Canova, Miller’s stepson and a Trustee.


“I think he saw that it was taking a good direction, sustaining itself, moving along,” said Canova. “By the same token, he also recognized it might need more support to continue to take off.”


“This generous gift from Lynn Miller is a ‘game-changer’ for this organization,” said Dan Guss, President of CCFT. “We have formed a committee to study ways to be sure we invest wisely, and use the funds to best fulfill Lynn’s vision for farmland preservation”

“This generous gift from Lynn Miller is a ‘game-changer’ for this organization,” said Dan Guss, President of CCFT. “We have formed a committee to study ways to be sure we invest wisely, and use the funds to best fulfill Lynn’s vision for farmland preservation”


The funds are for CCFT to use at its discretion. “He wanted to see the Farmland Trust grow as a strong, autonomous organization and a forerunner in farmland preservation, providing a need that other organizations can’t provide,” said Canova.


“Lynn would have been delighted that this was able to happen,” said Ray Masters, Miller’s longtime friend, colleague and the executor of his estate. “Seeing the best farmland gradually disappear to housing developments and things like that was an issue for him. He wanted to preserve as much farmland as possible.”


Miller educated people —particularly students of the landscape architecture and land use planning during his teaching tenure — about the importance of balancing development with food production and good soils, said Masters.


Professor Miller played an important role in encouraging Jennifer Shuey, the Trust’s treasurer and past-president to pursue a degree in landscape architecture. “He taught one of the first classes I took in the major—the History of Landscape Architecture. I was hooked”, said Shuey. “It is wonderful to now play a small part in stewarding Lynn’s legacy by protecting more of the land that he cared about so deeply.”


“He taught one of the first classes I took in the major—the History of Landscape Architecture. I was hooked”, said Shuey. “It is wonderful to now play a small part in stewarding Lynn’s legacy by protecting more of the land that he cared about so deeply.”


Miller grew up with an appreciation of land and landscapes in rural West Virginia, in the tiny town of Webster Springs, and earned a Bachelor of Science degree in agriculture from West Virginia University in 1953. He enlisted in the U.S. Navy, served during the Korean War and retired as a Lieutenant Commander. Miller earned a Master’s Degree in landscape architecture from Harvard University, graduating in 1959.


He worked for 40 years in the profession of landscape architecture, and taught for 35 years as a Professor of Landscape Architecture at Penn State University.


And never forgot his roots.


“He was as proud of being from West Virginia as he was of being a fellow in the American Society of Landscape Architects,” said Masters. “Lynn was always proud of his West Virginia roots and the fact that he supported his graduate studies by calling square dances in the Cambridge and Boston area,” Masters wrote in Miller’s obituary. Miller was 87 following his death March 3, 2020. His obituary asked friends to reflect on the importance of farmland preservation in lieu of sending flowers.


“Lynn was always proud of his West Virginia roots and the fact that he supported his graduate studies by calling square dances in the Cambridge and Boston area,” Masters wrote in Miller’s obituary.

Miller’s private design projects included designing the Toftrees Planned Community in State College and the Urban Park of Oporto in Portugal, with Sidonio Pardal.


“The tension is always that we have to develop land for people to live on, but do you do it indiscriminately with hard surfaces and buildings? Or do you create something that helps preserve the land you have and allow people to live on it?” said Canova. As a distinguished landscape architect, seeking harmony with people and nature, Miller fiercely advocated for the latter.

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