Longtime tech leader Harris Miller dies at 71

Harris Miller, a technology leader who helped government agencies use commercial technology more widely, died Thursday after battling cancer. He is 71 years old.

Miller is the longtime president of the Information Technology Association, one of the first trade associations to see government as a major market and consumer of technology.

He was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in July and died at home in September. 15. There was a funeral on Monday, and his funeral was private.

He is survived by his wife, Deborah Kahn, and two sons, Derek and Alexis. The other survivors are his five grandchildren and a sister, Li.

During his 11-year tenure as ITAA president, Miller led the association and the tech industry through several milestones in the marketplace, notably the Y2K misdated lead.

A potential computing disaster was averted thanks to the work of many people and organizations, including Miller and the ITAA. In 1998, he testified before Congress about efforts to fix the software problem and warned that if action was not taken, disaster was looming. Miller and ITAA provided leadership, including global coordination with other technical groups and the United Nations.

He is a two-time recipient of the Commonwealth 100 Award from our brother publication FCW. It recognizes behavior by individuals that goes beyond their job description. One award was awarded in 1999 and the other was awarded in 2005.

Miller is often the go-to source for journalists covering technology and government, providing insights on technology trends and their related policy and regulatory issues.

He resigned from ITAA in January 2006 to pursue the Democratic nomination for a Senate seat representing Virginia. Miller lost the nomination to James Webb, who went on to beat the then-incumbent senator. George Allen (R-Virginia) in the heat of the game.

After Miller left ITAA, it merged with the American Electronics Association and Tech America, and was later absorbed by the Professional Services Council.

For the past decade or so, Miller has focused on a variety of personal passions, especially those involving education and the arts. He is the President and CEO of the Association of Career Colleges. He has also worked for the Association of Public Colleges and Universities. He co-founded the Free College Tuition Movement.

He has served on the boards of the Virginia Opera House, National Philharmonic Orchestra, American Heart Association, George Washington University Heart and Vascular Institute, Virginia Lottery Commission, and chair of the Fairfax County Democratic Committee.

Miller was born in Pittsburgh and is a lifelong fan of the Steelers.

His daughter-in-law, Hannah Farber, wrote of Miller’s love for the family on Facebook: “You are the shepherd, the manager, the parent. You want the party to go well. Mother, father, sisters, brothers, friends. Everything. All have to be there.”

Stan Soloway, a former chairman of the Professional Services Council, said in an email that he started working with Miller when Soloway became PSC leader 25 years ago.

“He really elevates the association to primacy in government tech,” Soloway said. “When I took over PSC, we started to work more closely together.”

In addition to the professional connection, the pair shared some family ties between Miller’s in-laws and Soloway’s parents, as well as what Soloway called “bad golf, and a sometimes irreverent sense of humor. He Enthusiastic, terribly smart, and usually just a real person.”

Miller’s family has asked for a donation in lieu of flowers to the European Study Abroad Award, which was established at his alma mater at the University of Pittsburgh. This award supports international travel by deserving students. Click here to make a donation.

The family also suggested, as Miller has often done throughout his life, support the Democratic political movement.

In addition to making any memorial donations, Miller’s son Alexis Miller urged people to pass on joy.

“Message me or anyone in your life about the good things that are happening,” he wrote on Facebook. “There is plenty of room for sadness, help us all make room for joy.”

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