AMHS News Today
President's Blog: Celebrating 92 years young
There is something magical about the last day of school. For many, it means the official beginning of summer and a period of rest and rejuvenation. For our students, summertime may include getting a part-time job, or doing service hours, or taking a trip with the family—or a combination of all of the above. AMHS remains open over the summer and while the bells are off, we are still blessed with activity on campus with student camps and plenty of projects and planning for the upcoming school year. For those of us who work regular summer hours (with some vacation time sprinkled in) there are traditions we have grown to love: office lunches in the sunshine, trips to our business partners with thank you gifts (last year we delivered cookies decorated with our school logo), and a steady stream of alumni who stop by for a visit.
The past few years I have enjoyed an annual birthday celebration of one of our good friends and long-time supporters: Roman Miller. I first met Roman in the summer of 2006 when I was a member of the football coaching staff. Roman frequented our practices, always with a bag of candy and another bag of newspaper and magazine articles. Within seconds of our first conversation, Roman had already identified a connection with my high school football coach, Don Anderson, who Roman supervised as a mentor teacher during Coach Anderson’s student teaching. Soon other connections were identified as Roman learned of my life in Spokane and on Whidbey Island. Our conversations continued on the bus rides to our away games, with Bill Arkell chiming in from time to time from the driver’s seat. Of course Roman would share his amazing life stories and as a teacher of history, I was fascinated with his connection with the Manhattan Project which included a visit to Princeton and a class from Albert Einstein. It’s nearly impossible to believe any person (other than perhaps Forrest Gump) could have encountered as much living history as Roman Miller. Let me list a few of the highlights:
--In addition to serving in WWII as a member of the US Army Air Force, Roman also served in the Korean War.
--After his service to the military, Roman finished his education at Seattle University and graduated with a degree in economics and business law. He returned to his alma mater, O’Dea high school as a teacher and coach. There are countless O’Dea alumni who consider him to have been their favorite teacher and coach.
-- Roman joined the Seattle University athletic office. As the assistant athletic director, Roman helped recruit a young Elgin Baylor to play basketball at Seattle University. Elgin Baylor led Seattle University to the 1958 national championship game where they lost to Kentucky. He was selected as the #1 draft choice by the Minneapolis Lakers and embarked on a 14-year Hall of Fame NBA career.
--A 2008 Herald article profiled Roman and mentioned his tossing a football around with Elvis Presley. Presley was in town for the 1962 Seattle World’s Fair (filming scenes from his film “It Happened at the World’s Fair”). Roman said, “He was a good guy.”
--In the 1950s, Roman made a connection with Seattle Rainiers manager Paul Richards. Richards went on to become the general manager for the Houston Colt 45s (now the Houston Astros) and hired Roman to be his lead scout in the Northwest in 1962. Roman helped the organization land such legendary players as Rusty Staub and Joe Morgan and he advised the team to change their name to the Astronauts. According to a 2006 Seattle PI article, Roman also told the team that grass would never grow inside the Astrodome, leading the team to replace the grass field with artificial turf—the first use of a product later known as Astroturf.
--Roman developed relationships with political candidates who admired his sharp mind and keen strategies. He served as advisor and manager for Dan Evans on his campaign for governor of Washington State. With the help of Roman, Evans was elected governor for three consecutive four-year terms.
--Roman assisted John Spellman who became King County Executive and later Governor of the State of Washington.
--As a boy, Roman worked at Longacres Racetrack. Later in life he was named the executive director of the Washington State Horseracing Commission. He has remained connected with the world of sports and politics throughout his life—he successfully identified the greatness of race horses American Pharaoh and Justified well before they completed the Triple Crown of horse racing.
--Throughout the region, Roman has been honored and recognized numerous times. He is a member of the Seattle University Hall of Fame, received the Founder’s Award at the 2015 AMHS DREAM auction, and he is an emeritus member of the AMHS board of trustees. He is a member of organizations including the Knights of Columbus, Elks, American Legion, and O’Dea Alumni Association. In 2009, AMHS named the baseball field Roman Miller Field. He attends nearly every baseball game, both home and away, and he is also present at dozens of athletic events during the school year. In fact, if you watched coverage of the ROOT sports football game this past fall, Roman was featured on camera (wearing his AMHS letterman’s jacket) as the game commentators listed off a short list of his accomplishments. As the camera focused on Roman in our press box, the screen credits listed: Roman Miller—local sports legend.
Roman Miller will celebrate his 92nd birthday on August 4, 2018. The past few years I’ve been blessed to join him either on his birthday or the weekend following his birthday. Two years ago we had lunch at F.X. McRory’s in downtown Seattle. As we entered the restaurant we were greeted by the restaurant’s owner and Seattle icon Mick McHugh and I was informed Roman and Mick have the same birthday. We were led to a table reserved for Roman and received more attention than anyone else in the restaurant save for Fr. Michael Ryan from St. James Cathedral. Fr. Ryan was enjoying his lunch when he noticed Roman and quickly came over to greet him and wish him a happy birthday. Roman capped off his lunch with the largest bowl of vanilla ice cream and butterscotch syrup I’ve seen. As I prepared to pay our bill, Mick informed me the lunch was on him and invited us back again the following year.
Rather than return home on the freeway, I spent the next two hours with Roman driving through Seattle to his childhood neighborhood in Ballard. Just down the street from St. Alphonsus Parish School—where he attended—is a post office, located on the property his home once stood. Roman still keeps a PO Box at this post office and we went in to retrieve a box overflowing with birthday cards. We made our way through Shoreline and back onto the freeway headed towards AMHS. Roman told stories about his childhood in Ballard, the baseball players he scouted, and the advice he gave to Tom Workman to go from Blanchet HS to Seattle University. I discovered we shared a similar interest in the Boston Red Sox and found out his favorite player of all time was Ted Williams. By the time we returned to campus, it was late afternoon.
Last year Roman invited me for a day at the races at Emerald Downs. Not only did he pick me two winning races (including the official Roman Miller race), he introduced me to the owner of Emerald Downs, Ron Crockett, along with dozens of people on our way out to the winner’s circle for his race. Roman was interviewed by the racetrack broadcast—giving a big shout out to the AMHS community—and was wished a “happy birthday” every step he took. He capped off his day with an overflowing bowl of vanilla ice cream. As we prepared to leave, a man approached us to say hello and wish Roman well. Roman asked him his name and immediately recognized him as the son of a student Roman once taught. I don’t know why I was surprised--it never ceases to amaze me how many people he remembers, literally everywhere he goes.
If you happen to see Roman around August 4, please do yourself a favor and wish him a happy birthday. If you don’t already know him, introduce yourself and you will be amazed at how quickly he will make a connection with you or someone in your life. I’d be remiss if I didn’t share one of my favorite Romanisms. Several years ago, AMHS played a preseason football game in San Diego. My wife Stephanie and I made the trip, as did our athletic director at that time, Jerry Zander, and Roman. The four of us were booked on the same return flight so we could carpool home to Edmonds. As we made our way through security, Jerry and Roman went up the escalator as Stephanie and I gathered our bags. Suddenly we heard a cry for help and as we turned to look we realized Roman had fallen backwards on the escalator. A woman with a baby stroller acted quickly and hit the STOP button and raced up the escalator. As I approached Roman, his eyes were closed and he was breathing gently. I held his head until the paramedics arrived, at which point he opened his eyes. They asked him if he knew his name and where he was, which resulted in quick replies from Roman—“of course I know who I am. Who are you? Where’d you go to high school?”
Somehow, Roman’s baseball cap helped lessen the impact of his fall, and while he seemed to be fine, Jerry decided to stay overnight and take Roman to the hospital. My wife was in tears as we left them at the airport, but we checked in later in the night to make sure he was ok. The next morning, as Jerry and Roman arrived at the airport and went through security, Jerry asked Roman if he’d rather take the elevator than the escalator. Roman responded, “Jerry, when you fall off the horse you get right back on,” and he strode confidently up the escalator steps, with a bag of newspaper articles and candy in his hand.