Jerry Miller receives USNA Distinguished Graduate Award

A 1977 graduate of the United States Naval Academy, Jerry Miller recently received The Distinguished Graduate Award, an honor “given to living U.S. Naval Academy graduates who have made a distinctive contribution to their field or community and have demonstrated sustained, active support for the Naval Academy, Naval Academy Alumni Association, or Naval Academy Foundation,” according to the Naval Academy’s website. 

Nominees are selected by members of their graduating class. This list is then reviewed by the board, which consists of leadership at the Naval Academy and members-at-large. Four alumni received this prestigious award at the end of March. 

“To be honored by your peers is super special,” says Miller’s wife, Laura Miller. 

A four-minute biographical video sharing Miller’s journey from a young boy in Amsterdam, N.Y. to a successful businessman and philanthropist was shown at the event. Following the video, Miller said, “The intersection of my (Jewish) faith and my gratitude for what the Naval Academy has meant to my life’s work has resulted in me being here today. My faith was often tested and very much strengthened by Naval Academy experiences.” 

Miller’s family roots date back to Ellis Island. As a Jewish minority in both Amsterdam and at the Naval Academy, Miller shared his differences with his non-Jewish friends and enjoyed what they had in common. With no other Jews in his Naval Academy company, Miller embraced the opportunity to show how these men had more in common than they were different. 

Miller served seven years as a surface warfare officer. Although he left active duty in 1985, he has served the Navy as an entrepreneur in the maritime industries and the Naval Academy as a philanthropist. 

Miller co-founded a ship repair company with an Academy classmate and sold it 25 years later after it became a leading U.S. Navy ship repair organization. He then founded Fairlead Integrated, a company dedicated to the current revitalization of the Navy’s shipbuilding industrial base and a critical supplier for aircraft carrier and submarine construction programs. 

In 1998, Miller was a driving force in creating the Friends of the Jewish Chapel at the Naval Academy and raised $13 million to build a Jewish chapel on the Naval Academy yard. “It was the perfect intersection of the most important aspects of my life: faith, family, and the United States Navy,” he says. The Uriah P. Levy Center and Jewish Chapel was named for the Jewish commodore from Philadelphia who faced antisemitism 200 years ago. Within the Center is the Esther and William Miller Chapel, named in memory of Miller’s parents. The Center was built “to enhance the Naval Academy’s mission to develop midshipmen morally and mentally to become ethical leaders for our naval forces,” Miller adds. 

Miller grew up supporting Israel. At the Naval Academy, that backing is demonstrated via two programs supported by Jerry and Laura Miller. The couple established and support the Miller Scholars for STEM majors, a program during summer break. For two weeks, these students complete intensive studies in Arabic at the Naval Academy and then study for another month in Haifa where they meet people from around the world and travel with a guide to Masada, Jerusalem, Tel Aviv, and other Israeli landmarks. 

The Millers also underwrite spring break trips for midshipmen to travel to Israel. “It’s highly selective to get on this trip,” says Laura Miller. She and her husband meet with all participants before and after these trips. “Cultural immersion is the purpose of these experiences,” she says.