News

New Kroc Center leader is fifth-generation Salvation Army officer

Maj. Cheryl Miller
Posted: Dec. 13, 2012 8:47 am Updated: Dec. 27, 2012 9:15 am
Maj. Andrew Miller

By EDWARD HUSARHerald-Whig Staff Writer

Maj. Andrew Stewart Miller Jr. has Salvation Army heritage practically flowing through his blood.

Miller, who starts work Feb. 6 as senior officer at the Ray and Joan Kroc Corps Community Center in Quincy, is a fifth-generation Salvation Army officer whose family roots with the agency go back to the 1880s.

His grandparents were Salvation Army officers. And his father -- the late Andrew Stewart Miller Sr. -- spent 47 years with the Salvation Army and went on to become the agency's U.S. national commander from 1986 to 1989.

Miller's sister, Susan Swanson, is a Salvation Army commissioner in London and will soon be installed with her husband as territorial leaders for the Salvation Army's Eastern Territory, based in New York.

Meanwhile, his brother, Bill Miller, runs a major Salvation Army alcohol and drug rehabilitation program in Minneapolis; his son, Andrew Stewart Miller III, is a Salvation Army corps officer in Lawrenceville, Ga.; and his daughter, Diana James, and her husband are corps officers in Bloomington, Ill.

"I have no doubt that it's a calling," Miller said in a telephone interview from his current office in Kansas City, where he has worked since 2009 as secretary of program in the agency's Kansas and Western Missouri Division.

Miller and his wife, Maj. Cheryl A. Miller, a chaplain and division staff member in women's services, will both have leadership positions in Quincy. While he serves as senior officer, she will be the officer for congregational life.

The Millers will fill the positions being vacated by Majs. Dan and Dorene Jennings, who on Feb. 6 will become divisional leaders for the Wisconsin and Upper Michigan Division, based in Wauwatosa, Wis.

This marks the Millers' 12th appointment as Salvation Army officers since 1977, and it's the first time they will be in charge of a Kroc Center. Quincy's $27.2 million facility had its grand opening Sept. 18, 2011.

"What we've heard of the history of the Salvation Army in Quincy is just remarkable," Andrew Miller said. "And for us to follow a great couple like Dan and Dorene Jennings is just wonderful. That makes it easy because they are great people."

Miller, 59, said he is looking forward to overseeing Quincy's Kroc Center, which has gained a reputation in the Salvation Army for its smooth operation and strong community support.

"It's an honor that our territorial administration thinks we are able to do that, and we are blessed by that," Miller said.

"There are only six Kroc Centers in the whole Central Territory. Quincy is by far the smallest city where there is one, yet the people of Quincy, from everything I've heard, have just embraced it," he added.

"My wife and I are excited about having the opportunity to serve at such a great center and in a town that we've heard of, for a long time, as a great Salvation Army-supporting town."

The Millers -- the parents of four grown children -- have served many different appointments in various locations, from smaller communities to inner cities. They started their Salvation Army service in Rushville, Ind., and subsequently had assignments in Bloomington, Ind., Grand Rapids, Mich., Indianapolis, Detroit, Chicago, Des Plaines, St. Louis, Omaha, Neb., and Kansas City, Mo.

"The Lord has always made something special for us at every location," Miller said.

Miller was born in Akron, Ohio, and grew up a section of New Jersey near New York City.

Miller said his father's heavy involvement in the Salvation Army had a major positive influence on him.

"He was my hero, my mentor," Miller said. "If you ever met my dad, he never forgot you. And people never forgot him."

Miller's father became a nationally known figure through his involvement with the Salvation Army. For example, President Ronald Reagan invited him to the White House while Miller was serving as national commander of the agency in the 1980s.

During the 1960s, Miller said, his father got to know Sen. Robert Kennedy after bumping into him while jogging in New York's Central Park.

"They would converse," Miller said. "Sen. Kennedy would call our house in New Jersey and say, ‘Hello, this is Bobby Kennedy, is your father there?' I thought he was joking," Miller recalled.

After Kennedy was assassinated in 1968, the elder Miller took a group of Salvation Army cadets to the funeral service at St. Patrick's Cathedral in New York. They were standing outside in uniform behind a set of barricades when Kennedy's family walked by.

"His wife looked over and saw him and said, ‘Aren't you Andy Miller?' " Miller said, noting how Mrs. Kennedy then told his father: "Bobby said if anything ever happened, he wanted you to be an honor guard at his funeral. Will you come with us?"

The elder Miller went around the barricade and joined the funeral procession.

The next day, Miller said, he opened up the New York Post and saw a big picture of his father praying over Kennedy's coffin.

"There are just so many neat stories" about his father, Miller said. "I don't have anything that quite matches that. But the one thing that matches (with his father) is that we both had the opportunity of serving God and finding marvelous things in life."

-- ehusar@whig.com/221-3378