Martha was a smart, creative, and hard-working woman of faith. She was a wonderful mother and spouse. She delighted in Handel’s Messiah and Rodgers & Hammerstein musicals, in her grandchildren, in U.S. history and East Asian culture, and in birdwatching, cooking, exercising, reading, sewing, singing, and traveling. She delighted also in working for fairness and equality and in deducing patterns from numerical information and sharing with people about those patterns. Over the course of her life, she was a devoted fan of the Ohio State Buckeyes and the Florida State (FSU) Seminoles, of CBS News and National Public Radio, of the Book-of-the-Month Club, of the Cleveland and FSU symphony orchestras, and of the Ohio Yearly Meeting (Evangelical Friends Church), the United Church of Christ, and the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.). She was also friends and colleagues in particular with three elected Florida Commissioners of Education and the pastor and their spouse of three of her churches.
A practical problem-solver who relished getting things done, Martha – very late in life – also came to enjoy just hanging out and doing activities with friends and neighbors.
Martha was born Martha Jean Hildreth on June 9, 1934, at the Friends Rescue Home in Columbus, OH, to Helen Oladine Hildreth and Virgel Joseph Fitzgerald. At age 10 Martha became Martha Roby, when her Mother married Clarence Roby and Mr. Roby adopted Martha. Martha became Martha Chang in 1957, when she married Richard T. Chang, a college classmate and international student from South Korea. After Richard became a naturalized U.S. citizen, Richard and she had two children, Perry and Penny.
In 1987 Martha changed her last name to the maiden name of her maternal grandmother (originally, Olive Bell Miller), thus becoming Martha Miller.
Martha was the first person in her family to go to college. She graduated from East High School in Columbus and went on to earn a B.R.E. from Cleveland Bible College (now Malone University in Canton, OH), a B.A. from Roberts Wesleyan College (outside of Rochester, NY), an M.Ed. from the University of Rochester, an M.A. in History from the University of Michigan, and a Ph.D. in Educational Research from the University of Florida.
For 35 years, Martha worked as an Educational Researcher and Policy Analyst for the Florida Department of Education, in Tallahassee, advising 10 Florida Education Commissioners and the State Legislature in areas such as teacher supply and demand, enrollment projections, critical teacher shortages, and academic skills attainment (standardized test scores). For a time – via her committee work – she also advised the College Board, producer of the SAT college aptitude standardized test. Martha’s work was familiar to colleagues and researchers across the state and around the country and even sometimes to the public (for example, when a study of hers was described and she was quoted in USA Today).
Martha participated in the life and worship of over half a dozen churches during the course of her life. Among the most important were Sullivant Avenue Friends Church (in Columbus, OH), her childhood church and the church where Richard and she were married; the United Church of Gainesville and the United Church in Tallahassee; and First Presbyterian Church, where she served as a Ruling Elder on Session three times and as President of the Choir.
For a couple of decades of her life, Martha was very involved in the life and work of the American Association of University Women (AAUW). She served as President of the Tallahassee (FL) AAUW branch and as a state officer, newsletter editor, and (twice) state convention chair for Florida AAUW. Martha organized an important Educational Equity Roundtable for Florida AAUW, which contributed mightily to AAUW’s push for gender equity in the schools (including for the incorporation of women and girls into Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math fields and to equal treatment of boys and girls in K-12 school classrooms).
In 1997 Martha was named an Outstanding Woman (of Tallahassee) by the Tallahassee AAUW branch.
Although Martha spent the majority of her life living in Central Ohio or North Florida, she also lived in more than half a dozen other places, including in Ann Arbor (MI) (three times), Kyoto (Japan), Boston, and Tokyo (Japan). She also traveled to England and France. After living for 31 years in the same house in Tallahassee, she spent the last 14 years of her life across town at Westminster Oaks Retirement Community. At Westminster Oaks, Martha served as Treasurer of the Residents’ Council and chaired the Employee Gift Fund drive. She was also active in a Parkinson’s support group.
Martha was preceded in death by her father Virgel Fitzgerald, her mother Helen Beck, her (second) stepfather Marston Beck, and her sister June Darnell, as well as by many extended family members and friends (including childhood and college friends Edith Buss, Barbara Lloyd, Violet Price, and Jennie Wood).
She is survived by her sister Sandy Spain and brother-in-law Don Spain (of Grove City and Marysville, OH, respectively) and her sister Barbara Bush (of Canal Winchester, OH), her son Perry Chang and daughter-in-law Stephanie Gregory (of New Albany, IN), her daughter Penny Chang and son-in-law Serge Rascle (of Crozet, VA), her grandson Vincent Mathews and granddaughter-in-law Alexis Meriwether (of Jeffersonville, IN), and her grandson Jacob Chang-Rascle (of Brighton, MA), as well as by a myriad of nieces, nephews, cousins, and other extended family members and friends and caregivers (including special friends Peggy West, Rochelle Davis, and Marian Moore and special friend and caregiver Sherrie Pride).
A memorial service for Martha will take place at First Presbyterian Church at 10:00 a.m. on Saturday, January 13, at First Presbyterian Church in Tallahassee. The service will be livestreamed on First Presbyterian Church’s YouTube channel at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=T5Pl-ajHN5c. A video recording of the service will be accessible there later that day.
In lieu of flowers, people might consider making a donation in Martha’s memory to:
• First Presbyterian Church of Tallahassee (via a check with Martha’s name written on the memo line regular-mailed to the church or on the church website at oldfirstchurch.org via the Stewardship and Giving tab and then the Special Giving line with an “in memory of” note going in the Notes field)
• Westminster Oaks Retirement Community Employee Gift Fund (via a check made payable to the Employee Gift Fund regular-mailed to Westminster Oaks, Attn: Employee Gift Fund, 4449 Meandering Way, Tallahassee, FL 32308)
• American Association of University Women (via a check made payable to AAUW with Martha’s name written in the memo line regular-mailed to AAUW at 1310 L Street NW, Suite 1000, Washington, DC 20005 or on the website at aauw.org via the Donate tab and the “AAUW Greatest Needs Account”)
• Habitat for Humanity (via a check made payable to Habitat for Humanity with Martha’s name and preferably an email address for Martha’s family ([email protected]) written on the memo line or on the website at habitat.org via the Donate and Donate Now tabs).