Meet the Millers and more
Tom and Janet Miller have more than a hundred children.
Masato, Renato, Luis Carlos, Salim, Kwon-ho …
Children with names from all over the globe. Children who came from all over the globe over the years to study at UNO, and then found a warm home with the Millers.
“A lot of them refer to themselves as a ‘Miller’ – as ‘Miller children,'” Janet says, smiling. “And we consider each one of them our children.”
Since greeting their first one at the airport in 1987, Tom and Janet have hosted 115 foreign exchange students – often, three or four at a time. Together they’d carve pumpkins for Halloween. They’d decorate Easter eggs. They’d go on vacations to Colorado to visit Tom’s parents.
Every Friday night, Tom would grocery shop for the family. He’d take along whoever wanted to go.
“I’d pick up a pineapple and say, ‘What’s this?’ I’d pick up a green pepper and say, ‘What’s this?'”
They’d talk and laugh around the dinner table. One night, Tom and Janet asked them to demonstrate the sounds that animals make back home. It was fun to hear the differences. (In Japan, for example, dogs don’t go “woof” or “arf arf,” they go “wan wan.”)
They’d talk about cultural differences. No subject was off limits.
Whenever the kids had a conflict, Tom and Janet would hold a family meeting to resolve it. Whenever Tom and Janet wanted to add another child, they’d hold a family vote.
Says Tom: “That was the environment we were trying to set up – This is your family. Feel comfortable. If you have any questions or problems, just let us know. They were a long way from home, they were young and they were encountering many things for the first time.”
Tom and Janet both graduated from UNO. Tom works with the TeamMates mentoring program. Janet is a program coordinator for Ollie Webb Center, Inc., which works with people with intellectual and developmental disabilities and their families.
The Millers have been all over the globe visiting their large family. Last year, one of their children from Colombia got married. He invited them to the wedding and asked them to sit in the front row with his real parents.
“We actually got to attend as ‘godparents,'” Tom says. “We even got to sign papers saying that we’ve got to help keep this couple together.”
In June, they traveled to Japan for the first time and visited some of their children who live there.
Items from around the globe decorate their Omaha condo. They recently downsized from a house. The move to smaller condo means they no longer will be able to host students.
A few years from retirement, Tom and Janet recently started thinking about the legacy they wanted to leave. They decided to leave enough money in their will to create a scholarship fund for international students at UNO. The Millers had noticed that many foreign students wanted to continue their education at UNO but couldn’t because they couldn’t afford the nonresident tuition. The recipients of their scholarships will pay what Nebraska residents do.
“We both really believe in education,” Janet says. “And we decided that is how we wanted to leave some of our money.”
Their bequest makes them feel like they’re doing something good in the world.
And that feels good.
“We’re all basically one world, and we all affect each other,” Tom says. “And we feel that understanding each other’s cultures and beliefs is very important.
“We all have to work together to make this a better world.”
The Millers are members of the Burnett Society, which is open to people who’ve made plans to leave a gift to the University of Nebraska in their estate. For more information, contact the foundation at 800-432-3216.