Article Category Archives: Giving Matters

Holman Speaker Series Features Alumnus and Cyber Security Expert

Charlie Miller (’95)

Charlie Miller (’95)

Charlie Miller (’95) has taken control of an iPhone with only a text message, infected a MacBook through its power adapter, outlined a detailed cyber attack on the U.S. and most recently has found a way to disable a car’s brakes by hacking the vehicle’s mainframe.

In the uncharted world of cyberspace, there are bad guys and good guys, and luckily, Miller is one of the good guys. He is actually one of the world’s most sought-after cyber security experts and has worked for organizations such as the National Security Agency (NSA) and social media giant Twitter. Miller is an ethical hacker who seeks software vulnerabilities so they can be repaired and patched before they are exploited.
As part of the Holman Family Distinguished Speaker Series, Miller returned to campus in April to discuss “The War on Hackers and How it Hurts Computer Security.”

Miller was not always a world-class hacker. His interest in technology began with hours spent in the glow of his family’s Commodore 64 and Atari 400. After graduating from Lindbergh High School in St. Louis, he came to Truman on a Bright Flight Scholarship.

“I wanted to go away to college,” Miller said. “I asked my high school friend ‘what is the best school in Missouri that isn’t in St. Louis?’ He said, ‘Truman,’ so that’s where I went.”

After graduating magna cum laude with a degree in mathematics and a minor in philosophy, Miller earned a doctorate from Notre Dame. He was then hired by the NSA as a cryptographer/code breaker, where he quickly learned he had an affinity for computer security. Soon his job description included identifying weaknesses in foreign computer networks and executing numerous successful exploitations against foreign targets. For security reasons, Miller is not allowed to discuss any specific projects or missions he worked on for the NSA, but it was probably not what most people would expect.

“It takes a lot more planning than you see on TV,” he said. “You don’t sit down and ‘hack someone’ in five minutes. Depending on who or what you are attacking, it may be a multi-month project.”

In 2005, Miller returned to his hometown of St. Louis to work as a private security consultant. Although he is one of the good guys, some companies do not always see it that way. Miller demonstrated a vulnerability at Apple by sneaking an app past the company’s screening process. While he could have used the rogue app to compromise other people’s devices, he instead alerted the company to its security failure.

“They were angry that I had the app in the App Store and kicked me out of their developer program,” Miller said. “From my perspective, nobody was hurt, and I told them about a very critical vulnerability that they were able to patch to make their customers safer, and I got nothing but grief from them.”

Despite what some companies might think, Miller feels the work of ethical hackers serves the best interest of society.

“Without us, the security of products would only be the responsibilities of corporations and governments,” he said. “Corporations have an economical incentive to make products as quickly as possible, so they aren’t going to focus on security, and I won’t even talk about governments.”

While he was contracting, a large part of Miller’s job was finding any device that interested him and then trying to penetrate it. It was during this time that he made some of his most notorious hacks, including breaking into an iPhone through a text message, an especially dangerous hole because all he needed was a phone number to compromise a device. Miller also began to receive worldwide attention by becoming the first hacker to win four consecutive Pwn2Owns, a prestigious global hacking competition, where he once performed a record-breaking hack of a MacBook Air in just two minutes.

The author of three information security books, Miller has been featured in the New York Times, the Washington Post, Forbes and Wired, and has appeared on CNBC, NPR and the “Today” show.

Currently, Miller puts his talents to work for Twitter. As a part of its application security team, he makes sure hackers are unable to break into accounts to steal private messages or post phony tweets.

“If you find Taylor Swift’s direct messages posted on TMZ, I am probably having a bad day,” Miller said.

For young people interested in pursuing hacking, Miller’s advice is to jump in and get hands-on experience. Because there are not many academic programs to learn the trade, would-be hackers must be self-motivated and avid learners, skills he says he picked up at Truman.

“Truman was a great place to become a learner,” said Miller, “It really helped me become a hard worker and do well.”

Miller resides in St. Louis with his wife Andrea (’95), who is also a Truman graduate.
The Holman Family Distinguished Speaker Series is named in honor of Squire Paul and Meeda (Daniel) Holman by their children to honor their parents’ long association with Truman. It is funded through an endowment with the Truman State University Foundation.

Dr. Lydia Inman Fjeld Scholarship Established

Dr. Lydia Inman Fjeld

Dr. Lydia Inman Fjeld

Dr. Lydia Inman Fjeld gave selflessly to Truman  throughout her life. She arrived at the University in 1973 after accepting the position of head of the Division of Home Economics. Shortly thereafter, in 1975, she was named dean of graduate studies, a position she occupied until her retirement in 1983.

Inman Fjeld provided strong leadership at a pivotal time in the University’s history. At her retirement banquet, Deena Fowler (’75) delivered an address where she shared her observation that, “Dr. Inman fostered our growth, as well as her growth. She focused on others’ strengths rather than on their shortcomings. She uncorked human resources rather than keeping the lid on.”

Some of the many honors over the course of Inman Fjeld’s career include being named a General Foods Fund Fellow while a student at the University of Minnesota, earning a listing in the 1975 edition of Outstanding Educators of America and receiving the 1977 Merit Award from the Dairy Council of Greater Kansas City.

While Inman Fjeld’s service to the University ended in 1983, her role as one of Truman’s benefactors had just begun. In 1988, she added the moniker of Philanthropic Fellow to her many accomplishments. This designation was publicly recognized by then-University President, Dr. Charles J. McClain at the annual John R. Kirk induction ceremonies. The foundation that Inman Fjeld and her colleagues helped create and strengthen through their charitable giving contributed to the transformation of Truman into the nationally recognized university it is today.

Inman Fjeld passed away March 13, 2015, at the age of 96. Through her estate, she has contributed $25,000 to the Truman State University Foundation to fund the Dr. Lydia Inman Fjeld Scholarship Endowment. Her generosity will ensure that her passion for fostering growth and uncorking human potential will continue through the scholarship she created.

A Son Honors His Parents

Essie (Kelley) and Harry Gardner

Essie (Kelley) and Harry Gardner

Alumnus Mark Gardner (’75), of Springfield, Mo., embodies the Truman spirit by actively caring for the people around him and for the world. Fueled by his desire to make a difference in the lives of others, he endowed the Harry M. and Essie M. Gardner Scholarship through the Truman State University Foundation.

The scholarship, which Mark named in honor of his parents, Harry and Essie (Kelley) Gardner, will be presented to Truman students in the spirit of the Gardner family’s passion for lifelong learning and their belief that education is the foundation of civilized society.

Mark’s mother, Essie, who was the first member of her family to attend college, took summer classes at Truman for four years in the early 1940s to earn her teaching certification. Known for her hard work, sacrifice and remarkable sense of selflessness, Essie taught school until she married Harry, then worked outside the home once their oldest child went to college to help finance their educations.

Essie felt it was important to pursue higher education and strongly encouraged her five children to do the same — a vision that her husband supported through his own tireless work and sacrifice. Harry passed away several years ago, and Essie lives in Edina, Mo., a small town about 25 miles east of Kirksville.

Like his mother, Mark has strong ties to Truman. In 1975, he graduated from the University with a Bachelor of Arts degree in political science, and two years later he earned a law degree from the University of Missouri-Kansas City.

Following college and law school, Mark has led an impressive career. For many years, he represented clients in the areas of business law, commercial law, real estate development and real estate finance. Then around 20 years ago, he formed Gardner Capital, a company that has grown into one of the nation’s foremost tax credit development, investment and syndication firms. Specializing in affordable housing development, Gardner Capital has sponsored more than $500 million of equity in housing units in 55 communities. The company also invests in renewable energy production facilities and construction

Investing in a scholarship at Truman ensures that the Gardner family’s vision of using education to make a better world will live on through future  students.

Foundation Fund to Help Nepalese Students

In April, a 7.8-magnitude earthquake in Nepal took the lives of more than 8,000 people and destroyed or damaged much of Kathmandu, the capital city. At the time of the earthquake, Truman had 39 Truman students who were from Nepal, with dozens of alumni and several others who had family there. While none of them reported the loss of immediate family, they were nevertheless devastated by the tragedy in their country. Many survivors, including some of Truman students’ families, lost their homes and livelihoods.

In response to this tragedy, the Truman State University Foundation created the Nepal Emergency Relief Fund to provide financial educational support for students who were impacted by the earthquake.

Alumni were contacted by email and through social media channels and were invited to help Truman provide stability to students who are trying to cope with the long-reaching impact of this tragedy. The Truman family has responded so far with gifts totaling more than $14,000 to the Foundation’s Nepal Emergency Relief Fund.

One specific alumnus, Daniel “Dan” Sem (’05), responded to the email to let the University know that he is on the ground in Nepal providing relief through a nonprofit organization he started in 2013 called Thirsty Ground International. This organization is working to supply food and water filtration devices to those who are in desperate need. Sem has been working with members of the Truman community to try and get additional assistance to the families of Truman students and alumni through his organization.

Those that wish to join other University alumni in supporting Truman Nepalese students can complete a gift online at or contact the Advancement Office at (800) 452-6678.

Leone-Patterson Scholarship Established

Prospective students from Kansas, Nebraska and other western states now have an added incentive to attend Truman.

A gift from Ann and Gary Patterson of Wichita, Kan., and their son, Tyler, has created a scholarship endowment with the Truman State University Foundation.

The Leone-Patterson Endowed and Annual Scholarship is designed for students from those states who have unmet need, have active involvement and leadership in extra-curricular activities and a minimum high school grade point average of 3.25.

The scholarship will be utilized by the Office of Admissions as a recruitment scholarship to encourage students to attend Truman.

Ann (Leone) Patterson is a 1972 Truman graduate and serves as director of operations for the Patterson Legal Group in Wichita. Her husband, Gary, is the founder and managing partner of the firm. She is a member of the Board of Directors of the Truman State University Alumni Association and has been an advocate for students attending Truman from her geographic region.

Tyler Patterson is a 2006 graduate of Truman and is a trial attorney with the Patterson Legal Group, representing accident victims and their families. He received an MBA degree from the University of Texas and a law degree from Washburn University.