Thankful for the Lifetime Lessons He Learned as a Brandeis Student
For Alan Miller ’59, his Brandeis moment came half a world away while serving as second in command aboard a U.S. Navy destroyer just off the coast of war-torn Vietnam during the late 1960s.
As he cruised toward the open sea after helping lead his combat warship of more than 250 men on a successful early-morning raid on a key North Vietnamese railroad supply line, Alan was first struck by a thought that he has had many times in the ensuing four decades.
“I realized that the qualities that had first surfaced and were nurtured at Brandeis—character, self-discipline, hard work—were serving me well in a Navy uniform,” Alan says. “Brandeis taught me to demand more of myself.”
In recognition of the important role that Brandeis has played in his life, Alan has consistently supported his alma mater through the years. He recently included the University in his will, joining hundreds of other alumni, parents, Brandeis National Committee (BNC) members, and friends in the Sachar Legacy Society. The honorary organization comprises individuals who have made Brandeis part of their estate plans.
“I cherish my Brandeis experience and feel an obligation to give back,” says Alan, who lives outside Washington, D.C., in northern Virginia. “I hope other alumni who have similar feelings will consider making a planned gift to the University.”
Before coming to Brandeis, the Waltham native had never been challenged in the classroom. Professors like Max Lerner and Milton Sacks taught him to think and analyze rather than merely regurgitate facts.
“With Max Lerner, he didn’t want you to answer his questions right away. He wanted you to pause and think about the answer,” says Alan, a political science major. “Dr. Sacks didn’t merely want an answer to a question, he wanted to know why. He would say, ‘Don’t tell me that it’s important, tell me why it’s important.’ ”
Alan graduated from Brandeis with the intent of enrolling at the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts and becoming a diplomat, but put off his studies to join the Navy in 1959. He planned to leave the service when his three-year active duty service obligation ended in 1962, but he withdrew his resignation letter at the height of the Cuban missile crisis, eventually serving in the Navy for 21 years.
Much of his Navy career was spent as a surface warfare officer aboard destroyers and cruisers. He earned the Bronze Star and rose to the rank of commander. He also worked at the Pentagon and designed war games to train middle-grade Navy officers.
In 1988, following his Navy career and several years as a civilian contractor, Alan launched a second career far afield from his first. Despite no experience, he joined custom clothier Tom James Company.
While Tom James has become the world’s largest manufacturer and retailer of custom clothing, Alan is now the senior partner in the company’s busy office in Washington. His clients include a veritable who’s who of the Washington legal community.
Alan is frequently asked about having had two careers as different as the military and custom clothing. His answer: “Can I get back to you on that?”
“I didn’t expect to spend 21 years in the Navy, and I didn’t expect to be with Tom James so long, but both careers have been very satisfying” Alan says.Back
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