Colonel Norman D Miller, 1926–2015
Coauthored by Jim Collins and Brad Boyd
Those of us who produce the OES Beacon strive to recognize the leaders and members of OES. Norm’s smiling face has appeared many times in past issues and it is with sadness that this article has to document his passing. And, the fact that this is one of the largest articles ever produced about one of our members provides the proof of his impact on OES and especially the lives of over 700 former students. Norm was an icon in our society and he will be missed by all, but his legacy, the student poster competition, will live on under his name. Robert Wernli, Beacon Co-EIC.
Norman D. Miller, age 89, soldier, engineer, organist, and staunch promoter of student oceanic engineering and science passed away peacefully in his Seattle home on Friday, July 3rd, 2015. He was born on Decoration Day, May 30, 1926 in Spragueville, Iowa to Lyle and Sophia (Beyer) Miller and grew up in nearby Epworth, Iowa. In 1943, he enlisted in the Army Specialized Training Reserve Program and received training as an engineer. Following his discharge after the war, he completed his bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering from Iowa State College. He reenlisted in the Army Reserve, retiring as a full Colonel. One of his student oriented tasks at that time was interviewing prospective candidates for West Point US Military Academy and making recommendations to the Academy and the appropriate Congressman.
Norman moved to Seattle in 1961 and was employed by the Honeywell Corp. until 1988. One of responsibilities was as the engineer in charge of the design and implementation of the one meter accurate dynamic positioning system for the Glomar Explorer. Later with West Sound Associates he provided support systems for an offshore acoustic test facility.
He was very active in the Oceanic Engineering Society (OES) of the Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers (IEEE) and in 1989 he became a Vice President of the OES, a position he would retain for fourteen years. Norman organized the first student poster session at the OCEANS’89 Conference in Seattle. When he completed his term as a Vice President in 2003, his successor asked what he would like to do, Norman answered “students”. This was an activity he would continue to lead for the next 12 years until the OCEANS’14 Conference in St. John’s, CANADA. Approximately 700 students participated in the poster program over the period, 1989–2015. He also enthusiastically supported the Oceans Science Bowl high school competition and awarded the fifth to eight prize on behalf of the OES each year. Because of his long commitment to the students, the first prize at the biannual OCEANS poster competition is named in his honor. The US Office of Naval Research (ONR) has been very supportive of the student poster competition and it has been suggested that the OES supply a honorary plaque to be hung in a prominent spot at the ONR head office.
Norman was also active in the Seattle Valley of Scottish Rite, where he received the 33rd degree, and a member of the Walter F. Meier Lodge of Research #281. His love of playing the organ led to his playing for several lodges and membership in the Puget Sound Theatre Organ Society. Many well-known organists have visited his home to play his 7-rank pipe organ.
Shortly upon moving to Seattle Norman found his church home in University Temple United Methodist Church where his passion for liturgy led to his help in establishing special church services and an acolyte program. He produced a copyrighted procedure manual for the acolyte program.
Norman was a patron of the arts and loved to travel. His favorite trip was to Machu Picchu.
He is survived by his sisters Enid Miller and Carol Rock- well, his nephews Douglas and Stuart, his niece Sally, and countless others touched by his boundless generosity.
Jim Collins and his wife, Faith, attended Norman’s funeral in Seattle on behalf of the OES on July 18th. OES provided a bouquet. The ceremony was attended by about 120 people. Norman designed the event to the last detail. With the booming organ music played one could not but help but feel Norm’s presence. After the service there was a reception where Jim met Brad Boyd who had been assisting Norman with his affairs for the last couple of years. He said that one of Norman’s regrets was that he would not be able to be with us at OCEANS’15 in October. Jim had a chance to discuss Norman’s contribution to the OES and our student program with some of his former engineering colleagues who were impressed with what he had achieved and at the same time recounted some of the details discussed above of his engineering achievements in Seattle.
Memorial Emailed Tributes to Norman
Tribute from OES President René Garello is in the “From the President” (see page 3). Many tributes to Norman came in by email and follow below in surname alphabetical order. Many respondents agreed with Bill Kirkwood’s suggestions given below but for brevity sake these comments are omitted and following these suggestions OES and MTS will have a special ceremony during the plenary session at Oceans 15 Washington DC.
From Gerardo Acosta, Argentina Chapter Chair for IEEE OES I did not have the pleasure to meet Norman personally, but
I know about his great task for the society. Always this kind of people are missed in any group, and surely we will do. RIP Norman Miller.
From Bob Bannon, AdCom Member of the IEEE OES
Sadly, we have all lost a dear friend, a true gentleman, and lifetime officer. Norm always gave a 110% to all endeavors and he will be missed by all of us.
From Jim Barbera, Senior Past President of the IEEE OES
As with most of the Adcom/Excom our memories of Norm were centered around the efforts with the students that he handled over the years especially when I was President and we attended one of the first NOSB events that has become usual for the society. We, especially Peggy at the conferences, developed a friendship that included many side trips at the conferences. In Boston we all went whale watching. It was a chilly day but the whales are hams and they performed for the tour boat. In DC Peggy squired him around as we live nearby so she knew places to go for sightseeing and he was glad to go. On our visit to Monterey the trip included the WAVE bus tour and a stop at Bubba Gumps for lunch. Virginia Beach included a group trek with Norm, Pat and Jim Candy and us to an airplane museum that had a large number of old planes that were still flyable. We will miss Norm as he had become a buddy over the years.
From Jim Candy, AdCom Member of IEEE OES
Not only was Norm a kind human being a true gentleman and a fabulous contributor to IEEE OES, MTS & ONR … His legacy will clearly live on, but most important, he was a very strong and devout Christian and a true believer. It is appropriate to grieve and feel sadness for his passing, BUT as a Christian, it is time to rejoice because he has gone home to the Lord and is at eternal peace—so feel great comfort and celebrate that we were all fortunate enough to have had a great friend, colleague, and loving person in Norm Miller. God Bless him.
From Jerry Carroll, Junior Past President of the IEEE OES
I sent you a picture of Norm on the boat trip in St John’s which Norm enjoyed very much and so did I. I was very glad that I asked him to join me. We had a nice evening as well on our last day. Little did I know that would be the last time I would see him as he seemed in good health. He was always a friend and we enjoyed our visit to his home when we were in Seattle when he played the organ.
From Stan Chamberlain, Past President of IEEE OES
We certainly grieve and feel the loss of a great friend, both personally and to the IEEE OES, MTS & ONR community, and we also rejoice that, because of Norm’s faith in Jesus Christ, he is now in a much better place. Norm has contributed greatly to our profession and it was a joy to work with him. He deserves the recognition he has and will receive. And now he has gone on to even greater recognition and reward.
From Ross Chapman, Editor of the IEEE OES Journal of Oceanic Engineering
I’m very sad to hear about Norman’s death. The scope of his impact on the society and on research in the ocean was huge. I have very a very happy memory of breakfasts with him in St John’s last year, the last time he attended an Oceans conference.
From Philippe Courmontagne, AdCom Member Elect of the IEEE OES
Really bad news … as the Student Poster Committee chair, at each OCEANS conference, I can measure all that he has realized for OES and in particular for the students. I do not know exactly what to write except that it was a real pleasure to work with Norman, as he knew how to perfectly respect the work of the students. He has contributed a lot in the society by the way of the student poster program, not only because he gave an opportunity to the students to have their work enhanced, but too because he has thought about a relief team (or troops, as the colonel he was). Norman is not anymore, but what he has done will be there for several years.
From Joe Czika, Past President of IEEE OES
It would be fitting to rename the OES scholarship fund as the Norman Miller Scholarship Fund, or something like that. The name would immortalize Norm’s most famous OES legacy. It would also be fitting to allow individual tax-deductible contributions to such a fund.
From Diane DiMassa, Past Treasurer of IEEE OES
A true pillar of the OES with a most honorable legacy. I am so happy that we named the student award for him while he was with us to appreciate it. He will be dearly missed.
From Ferial El Hawary, AdCom Member of the IEEE OES
So sorry to hear about the loss of our dear friend Norm, yes it’s really day of sadness that wasn’t expected. I worked with Norm on OES AdCom for more than three decades and the last seen him was at OCEANS’14 in St. Johns, he sent me an Email after he returned home from the conference to express his feeling as this is last OCEANS for him to attend ..which sounded like he was saying Good by to OCEANS… He will be really missed.
Extract from Eulogy by Rev. John B. Grabner, Personal friend of Norman’s for 52 years.
I will especially cherish the memories of traveling with Norman, my fellow worship nerd; they have enriched my life immeasurably – in sermon preparation, Bible study, and when watching British and French television or current developments in the Middle East: I will always be grateful for Norman’s loyal and generous friendship–and I’ll miss his caustic wit.
From Mal Heron, AdCom Member of IEEE OES
Norman was indeed a special person and his contribution was unique.
From Franz Hover, Winner of first Oceans Student Poster Competition, Seattle, 1989
Norm made me feel like a professional, way back at the first competition in Seattle 1989, and I appreciated that! He kept a real interest in my career afterward, and we exchanged hello’s every year or two. His dedication to the student posters – and the students – over all these years has been tremendous.
From Harumi Sugimatsu, Editor of IEEE OES Beacon Newsletter
I am very sad to hear that. I remember our visit to his home when he played the organ for us.
From Bill Kirkwood, Treasurer of IEEE OES
I propose that in DC… a very appropriate venue… we hold a special moment in his honor. I think we should have someone from ONR receive a memorial plaque (a really very nice one) in recognition of his efforts with starting the student poster competition and the link to ONR… the appropriate place for this plaque is at ONR I believe.
From Lian Lian, AdCom Member of IEEE OES
I am very sad to hear that.
From Marinna Martini, Secretary of IEEE OES
He leaves behind very large shoes to fill.
From Christophe Sintes, AdCom Member of IEEE OES
I am very sad as you to hear that. He has done a lot for students. After years he has become a friend. I will never forget his advice, and when sometimes he said “no”, as the colonel he was. He always enjoyed coming to the Conferences and discussions with young people: it is a loss.
I met Norm in 1999 in Seattle for the student poster competition, he was the boss! He was strict like a retired colonel and explained clearly the rules of the game. I was impressed and a bit intimidated by him. I always liked when he made introduction of the SPC to students. It was him and students appreciated his view of the SPC: “Do your best, try to meet people, explain your work and convince!” He also each time explained the origin of the SPC with help from ONR etc, and it was success story! Norm for me was the soul of the Oceans competition. I am very happy the first prize is now named after him. During the last years he has also involved more and more people around him to help to judge, to organise, because for him, youth was future and it was matter of legacy. It could be said more about him, his military adventures, his organ etc, but I simply say: Goodbye, my friend.
From Bob Spindel, Chair OCEANS ‘89, ‘99, 2010
Norm’s legacy lives on in the collective memory of those of us who have had the privilege of working with him, and especially in the lives of the hundreds of students he has championed in our (his, really!) Student Poster Sessions. I vividly remember how he pressed for the first Student Session in OCEANS 89, and how he sought and received a generous grant from ONR to fund student travel and hotel accommodations. It was a selfless, generous effort that he reprised every year thereafter until 2014. It is hard to imagine a more concrete contribution to our profession and our Society than encouraging young people in their early careers. We will miss him, but by continuing to hold Student Poster Sessions we can perpetuate a precedent he set that will be an ongoing honor to his memory.
From Ken Takagi, AdCom Member of IEEE OES
I am very sad to hear the death of Norman Miller. I was working with him to organize the student poster session of OCEANS 2004 as the session chair. That was a good memory.
From Ray Toll, President of MTS
We have indeed lost a special friend and colleague who impressed me most with his kind, gentle disposition and enthusiasm for our youth. I will remember him most for how he supported our OCEANS12 team as this link conveys.
RIP, Norm. We will commit to carrying on your legacy. You made a difference, sir.
From Joe Vadus, AdCom Member of IEEE OES
I am very saddened by the passing of Norm Miller. He was a distinguished asset of the IEEE OES, whom I admired very much for his warm, friendly personality, optimism, can do attitude, and great efforts in serving on ExCom and AdCom. He was a staunch member of MTS, and frequently interacted with ONR on the Student Program. He will be especially remembered for his guidance and the opportunities he provided for many students in organizing and managing the Student Program. Many will remember his invitation and the guidance and opportunities he provided to students from countries around the world. He was a good friend who will be greatly missed and remembered by many.
From John Watson, AdCom Member of the IEEE OES
He is a major loss to the Society. His legacy lives on in the Posters.
From Glen N Williams, Past President of IEEE OES
Truly an unsung hero of the OES. He will be missed.
Thank you, and Good-bye Norm. We shall never forget you.