Helen A. Miles, who headed guidance departments and instituted peer counseling programs at Perry Hall and Owings Mills high schools, died of cancer Thursday at her home in San Diego. She was 72.
Dr. Miles retired from Baltimore County's public schools in 1987. She moved from her home in Mays Chapel to Florida in 1989 and to San Diego in 1997.
Helen Adams was born in Baltimore, raised in Dundalk and graduated from Dundalk High School in 1947. She earned her bachelor's degree in 1951 from what is now Towson University and a master's degree from the University of Miami in Florida. In 1974, she earned her doctorate in education from Heed University in Hollywood, Fla.
Dr. Miles began her counseling career at Perry Hall in 1963, eventually becoming department chairwoman. Bruce Seward, who now heads the department and was a friend for 35 years, recalled her persistence in working with faculty and students.
"I was a middle school English teacher, and she finally persisted in getting me to come to Perry Hall High School. And then she told me to get a master's in counseling," he said. "She was a mentor, boss, networker and a big sister all rolled into one."
He also described her as a "warm, loving person who was quick to laugh."
"She never looked for a student's weaknesses but rather their strengths, and then she helped them capitalize on them, which made the weaknesses go away," he said. "She was a person who grew people and loved celebrating their accomplishments. She was so popular with faculty and students that they called her Mother Miles."
Dr. Miles filled her office with books and plants, and would get out from behind her desk when seeing visitors. "She wanted to be informal and speaking over a desk seemed to formalize situations. She wanted the students to be comfortable. They sat on a sofa and she sat in a chair," Mr. Seward said.
In 1978, Dr. Miles was asked to establish the guidance departments at Owings Mills high and middle schools.
Rowland L. Savage, Baltimore County coordinator of guidance and counseling services, said Dr. Miles "believed that all students should have access to counseling programs, not just those who were college-bound."
"Another hallmark of her career was her advocacy and use of peer counselors," Mr. Savage said. "She helped develop the Peer Helpers Program at Perry Hall and later brought it to Owings Mills. There is nothing worse than being a teen-ager and a new student in a school where there are already established groups.
"Students trained by the guidance counselors helped their fellow students with their concerns and problems," he said. "They were the essential connection between the student and the department."
She had been a longtime communicant of St. Joseph Roman Catholic Church in Cockeysville. In San Diego, she was a member of San Rafael Roman Catholic Church and was active in its adult ministry. She also enjoyed traveling and playing bridge.
A Mass of Christian burial will be offered at 10 a.m. Friday at St. John the Evangelist Roman Catholic Church, 13305 Long Green Pike, Hydes.
Surviving are her husband of 52 years, Paul J. Miles Jr., retired Dulaney High School basketball coach; three sons, Paul J. Miles III of Long Green, Gregory Miles of Baltimore and Glen Miles of San Clemente, Calif.; three brothers, Wilsie H. Adams Jr. of Potomac, James L. Adams of Clifton, Va., and Joseph M. Adams of Ellington, Conn.; a sister, Carol A. Nordberg of Phoenix in Baltimore County; and seven grandchildren.