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Jerome Miller
1922 - 1996

Jerome Miller photo Jerome (Jerry) Miller became executive director of the Society for American Archaeology in 1983. When the society terminated its administrative arrangements with the American Anthropological Association and contracted with Bostrom Corporation to manage the society, Glen Bostrom drew Jerry Miller out of semiretirement to become our executive director. In addition to managing the daily affairs of the society, Jerry reorganized and rationalized many of our activities. He brought to the Executive Committee a clear vision of what an independent, effective, and mature professional society ought to be, and then extended the vision to the membership. He never "led," nor "prodded." A suggestion here, a possible alternative noted there, and the Executive Committee and the membership found they had developed new policies and new ways of conducting business at a much higher and more sophisticated level than before.

In short, Jerry Miller professionalized the administration of the society. In doing so, he created the expectation among the members that the society was, and would be, run professionally. He reorganized membership services, created budgets and schedules for each service, and worked with all committees to define and implement clear, feasible goals. When an activity was delayed by the inaction or timidity of some committee or task force, he either saw it to completion himself or, more effectively, helped others to rethink the activity so that everyone involved could see the goal and productively reach it.

Jerry Miller's goals for the society were independence and fiscal health. In order to achieve these goals, he urged the society to conduct a management study of itself; the result was the study completed by Fairbanks Associates in 1988. Jerry showed the board how to handle the results of the study, and under his skillful guidance and financial expertise, he used the Fairbanks report to help the society change its governance structure and establish its own independent headquarters. The society did establish its own office in 1992, and Jerry subsequently retired from Bostrom but never from his concern for the society and his affection for its members.

Jerry Miller embodied great personal integrity; on at least one occasion he protected the society from serious institutional threat. He was able to do so because of his own high competence and experience and because he had the complete confidence and backing of the Executive Committee. Such trust was earned not only through effective service, but also because he had observed his own credo of never displacing the society's members from the indispensable position of leadership. Miller believed in and acted on the idea that no executive leader should dominate a professional group, and no professional group should ever surrender its affairs to an executive director. In his judgment, a careful, closely watched, but dynamic balance of leadership produced a healthy organization.

One of Jerry's goals was to run the annual meetings without errors or accidents. With his wife Dee as on-site manager in the command posts established in convention hotels, and Jerry moving around the floors, in and out of the nearly continuous Executive Committee meetings, the goal was always met. At the first meeting they managed for SAA, in 1984 at Portland, Ore., members lined up to shake Jerry's hand for "the very best meeting we've ever had." Things only got better. In 1990 the society awarded Jerry the Presidential Recognition Award for his incomparable service. The society's present expansion and optimism about its future is in large measure a legacy of Jerry Miller's vision and steady guidance.

Jerry died of cancer in November 1996. With his death, SAA lost one of its ablest administrators and truest friends. We are all in his debt. He is survived by Dee and their children, Anthony, Sharon, and Julie.

Don Fowler is at the University of Nevada in Reno, Nev., Dena Dincauze is at the University of Massachusetts in Amherst, Mass., Mark Leone is at the University of Maryland in College Park, Md., and Jerry Sabloff is at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia.


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