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One of Our Own

by Theresa W. Bourdon

As the horrific events of September 11 began to unfold, the painful realization hit many of us that we had friends and colleagues who could have been in or near the World Trade Center that morning. According to the CAS, six firms, including insurers, reinsurers, brokers, and consultants employed a total of 36 CAS members with WTC addresses. By Friday, September 14, a letter from CAS President Pat Grannan posted on the CAS Web Site identified only one CAS member who was still missing: Philip Miller.

For those of us who knew Phil, the realization that he was among the missing brought overwhelming grief for the great loss to his family, friends and colleagues, and to his profession. For those of you who did not know Phil, similar feelings were likely accompanied by a natural curiosity to know more about Phil Miller. After all, he is one of our own.

By all accounts, Phil should be described as an actuarial student prodigy. By the time he was graduated from City College of New York in 1968 at age 20 he already had two CAS exams under his belt. He began a promising career that same year with the Insurance Rating Board, a predecessor of Insurance Services Office, Inc. (ISO), in its actuarial department in New York City. While at ISO, Phil continued with stellar success on the exam track. In 1970 Phil's first child, Sheryl, was born. Along with the joy of his first born came the distractions and challenges of parenthood, yet Phil remained ever the determined student. According to Phil's wife Arlene, Phil kept to his strict study regimen, taking only one week off between sittings, and using a closet in their small New York apartment as his study space. By May 1975 Phil was a CAS Fellow with a perfect record of passing all exams on the first sitting.

The vigor with which Phil approached actuarial exams also defined his career at ISO. It was clear from the beginning that Phil was going to be on the fast track. He moved up the corporate ladder the same way he passed exams: from actuarial student, to manager of the commercial automobile actuarial division, to ISO's first data quality officer, to vice president of data management and control, to senior vice president and chief actuary, a position he held at the time he left ISO to pursue a career as a consulting actuary.

"Phil had the ability to recognize your strengths even before you may have recognized them yourself—and he helped to nurture these strengths," recalled Rose Reindl, an ISO colleague. "While he remained focused and a classic workaholic, Phil always found the time to laugh and enjoy life. He was easy to talk to and made time to listen. To many of us, Phil was not just our boss or our colleague—he was our friend."

"Phil was a strong role model for so many of us," says Norma Masella. "He had a keen grasp of both the analytical and business sides of a project. In deciding on a particular course of action, he would weigh alternatives and listen to the opinions of colleagues and support staff. He never dictated—he led. He had a fostering style of management that brought out the best in all of us and guided us during times of crisis. Phil never lost his trademark sense of humor, even during the difficult times. He was a friend as well as a mentor and will be sorely missed but never forgotten." Commenting on Phil's quick laughter, Masella added, "There were a number of funny episodes that will go down in the history books—like the time Phil inadvertently checked into a YMCA rather than the hotel where he had reservations. But Phil laughed just as hard as the rest of us at these `Philisms'—and that speaks volumes of his endearing nature."

"Phil never really learned how to relax until he was bitten by the golf bug," recalled Art Cadorine, another ISO colleague. "Unlike bus rides, train rides, plane rides, time in the bathroom where he could always do work or read what was going on, on the golf course, he could do nothing but chase the little white ball. I could always count on him to have the first starting time on weekends in the Poconos. We are all better off for knowing him and we will always remember him."

Phil left ISO in early 1995 to pursue a career as a consultant with TillinghastTowers Perrin. "In my interaction with Phil I was impressed with how pleasant and positive he was," said Tillinghast-Towers Perrin colleague Ollie Sherman. "He was very hard working and adept at analysis of unusual exposures. He took a leading role in constructing our model of the potential insurance exposure related to tobacco. He virtually single-handedly prevented the potential devastating consequences of Y2K, through spreading the word on the significant exposure presented by the millennium issue."

Phil joined Aon in March 2001 as assistant director and actuary in our New York office, returning with sad irony to the WTC where he had worked for ISO when the 1993 terrorist bombing occurred. It didn't take long for those of us at Aon to recognize Phil's strong work ethic, people-oriented disposition, and understated, yet effective, leadership style.

"I have known Phil over the last twenty-five years," said Terry Alfuth. "I first met him at ISO when he was involved with the various committees. We were both much younger then and had similar visions for the future. He was a soft-spoken leader and a person you could easily develop a friendship with. I recall many of the bus rides at the CAS meeting evening gatherings where we often talked about the future of the CAS and our individual careers. This spring I was delighted to have a long-time friend join us in our New York Aon office. We worked on many difficult accounts together and we were able to find a bit of humor in them. Phil liked to golf and talk about his summer home and how it was such a peaceful setting. I will miss Phil as one of our Society's true professionals and a dear friend."

"Although I worked with Phil only a short time," reflected Terry Pfeifer, "the thing I'll most remember about him was his cheerful demeanor and jovial attitude. It's sometimes difficult to find something humorous in actuarial work, but Phil often seemed to be able to crack a few jokes and maintain a lighthearted mood. Even when talking to Phil on the phone I always felt he had a sly grin on his face as if he was laughing at his own private joke; or maybe he was just simply happy in working at his job. Phil's voice mail answering message said something like `...please leave a message at the tone. However, if you'd like to speak with a real person, please dial 0 to speak with...' When I think of Phil that's how I'll remember him—a real person. A genuine good guy."

I personally recall how Phil loved to talk about his family and the special retreat he and his wife had created in the Poconos Mountains of Pennsylvania to enjoy time together with each other and their son, Danny, who has cerebral palsy. As I remember Phil, my picture of him will forever be the ever-smiling, tall, yet nonintimidating figure that commanded your attention with his gentle demeanor.

Ever the analytic, Phil was clued in well ahead of the rest of us that dreadful morning, even before the second plane hit his tower only a few floors above where he was last seen. For he is quoted as saying to one of our surviving colleagues during the evacuation, "It's a beautiful clear day in New York City and a plane flies into the World Trade Center—something is not right about this."

Phil gave his life in the line of duty: duty to his family as a provider, duty to his profession as an actuary, duty to his employer as a consultant, and duty to his country as an American citizen supporting life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. So for those of you who wanted to know more about our missing colleague, know this— Phil Miller is an American hero.