Building Conference Hosts Wheeling Native

MORGANTOWN – For Wheeling native and Linsly School graduate Matthew Miller, educating and empowering young people are keys to improving communities.

He shared that vision and more on Thursday while serving as keynote speaker for The Building Conference at the Waterfront Place Hotel in Morgantown.

While delivering The Intelligencer throughout the Friendly City at the age of 10, Miller didn’t realize he would some day teach at the University of California, Berkeley. Yet nearly 17 years after leaving Linsly, Miller’s work in environmental design and architecture earned him the chance to address students, scholars, community leaders and others at the event.

“Failure will happen, but it can be a catalyst for change if you can use it properly,” said Miller, whose family owned and operated Ye Olde Alpha on Carmel Road in Wheeling for more than 70 years before selling it to Mark Thomas and Charles Schlegel.

“Education is key because it allows you to put people in positions to be able to help themselves,” Miller added.

Miller is an architect who holds degrees from the University of Tennessee and the Cranbrook Academy of Art. He has taught at the Rhode Island School of Design, the College of Creative Studies and UC Berkeley. He now runs the Studio H group in Berkeley, Calif., with business partner Emily Pilloton.

The conference continues through Saturday. Wheeling resident Mark Swiger, who teaches in Marshall County Schools, is scheduled to speak today. Thom Worlledge, who works out of Charleston for Wheeling-based McKinley & Associates, also is slated to address the conference.

The Building Conference is geared toward learning new ways to improve communities by preserving and maintaining natural assets. The conference is a West Virginia GreenWorks collaboration with West Virginia University’s School of Art and Design, West Virginia State University’s Research and Public Service Extension and the West Virginia chapter of the U.S. Green Building Council.

“This is a conference that touches on every aspect of community life, including transportation, paving and wastewater treatment and management. It’s a seminal quality of place conference,” said Sarah Halstead, West Virginia State University’s sustainable community and economic development specialist. “The fact is, how we design our communities has everything to do with all aspects of our lives and the health of our people.”

Mentioning that he has not spent much time in Wheeling since his 1996 high school graduation, Miller said he would “love the idea” of doing some work in West Virginia, but has not yet found the right opportunity.

“Ultimately, the power of architecture does not work in a vacuum. You need to empower youth. Give them a stake; give them a reason to come back,” Miller added of his philosophy. “Top down does not work.”