Terry Miller, a 1966 graduate of UAF, became one of Alaska's most successful political figures before he died of cancer in 1989 at age 46. Decades later, his legacy included an unusual connection to President Barack Obama's White House.
Miller grew up in North Pole, on land homesteaded and then subdivided by the parents of another prominent UAF graduate — Neil Davis. Miller's parents started the Santa Claus House on the side of the Richardson Highway.
Miller was elected to the North Pole City Council at age 21, then to the Fairbanks North Star Borough Assembly. He stopped briefly in the Alaska House after winning a seat in the 1966 election, then jumped to the Alaska Senate in 1968. He led that body as president for the 1973-1974 session. Alaskans chose him as lieutenant governor in 1978 to serve under Republican Gov. Jay Hammond in his second term.
Miller returned to business interests after losing a 1982 bid for the governor's office and a 1986 bid for lieutenant governor, both under the Republican banner. He was diagnosed with bone cancer in 1988 and died in Seattle the next year.
While attending the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University in the mid-1970s, Miller met Pete Rouse. Rouse's mother, Mary Mikami, had graduated from the Alaska Agricultural College and School of Mines, UA's predecessor, in 1934. However, she left the state and married, so her son had never lived in Alaska. When Miller won the lieutenant governor's job in 1978, he asked Rouse to come to Alaska and serve as his chief of staff.
Rouse left Alaska in the early 1980s and entered politics as a Democratic staff member in Washington, D.C. He served as President Barack Obama's transition team director in 2008 and then briefly as Obama's White House chief of staff in 2010.
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