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Thormund Aubrey Miller ’41 and Trustee

A picture of Thormund Miller

Thormund Aubrey Miller ’41 and emeritus trustee, February 19, 2010, in Los Altos, California. Thor was a day-dodger at Reed, who commuted from his home in Milwaukie, Oregon, in a Model A Ford. He earned a BA from Reed in political science, writing his thesis, Some problems in western hemisphere solidarity, while seated at a desk in the library tower. From 1942 to 1946, he served in the naval reserves, initially on a minesweeper in the Atlantic, and then as an anti-submarine warfare officer in the South Pacific. “I started corresponding with Columbia Law School while I was still out in the North China Sea. My recollection was that I didn't have all my papers on file at Columbia, but on the strength of prior Reed grads, who had done well there, I was admitted,” he told Barbara Sloate Isgur ’63 during an oral history interview in 2005. While stationed in New York during the war, he met Hannah Alma Flansburg; they were married for 56 years and raised two daughters, Kristen and Catherine. Thor graduated with an LLB from Columbia in 1948, and, for superior academic achievement, was recognized as a Stone Scholar-an honor that had been newly established at the law school. From there, he went to San Francisco and worked for the McCutcheon firm, while preparing for the California State Bar. Over lunch one day, the vice president of South Pacific Railroad offered him a job working for the company in Washington, D.C., a position Thor accepted. He returned to San Francisco 16 years later, and settled in Atherton, California. He and Hannah enjoyed many gatherings, including events organized by Reed's Bay Area chapter. This connection led to a more active involvement with the college, including Thor's appointment to the Reed board of trustees (1987-2002). Along with alumnus and trustee Walter Mintz ’50, Thor endowed the college's Thormund Miller & Walter Mintz Chair for Economics in 1996. Thor worked for Southern Pacific Railroad for nearly 30 years, finishing his career as vice president and general counsel. He was instrumental in starting the Southern Pacific Communications Company (now Sprint), and represented Southern Pacific and all of the western railroads before the Interstate Commerce Commission, frequently serving as chairman of the group's lawyers. A highlight of his career was arguing a Supreme Court case in 1967. Thor served as president of the Atherton Civic Interest League and the Holbrook Palmer Park Board, and was a member of the Kiwanis Club and director of the Associates of University of California Press. In 1999, he received the Good Neighbor Award from the Atherton Civic Interest League. From his public obituary, we learned that his family and friends drew inspiration from Thor's dignity, genuine kindness, compelling smile, and ethical approach to life. “He will be remembered as a gentleman who listened patiently and helped wherever he could.” Hannah died in 2003. Thor later married Barbara Cornell Singelyn. Survivors include Barbara, two daughters, three grandchildren, and a sister.

Appeared in Reed magazine: September 2010

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