Mariko Terasaki Miller

Mariko Terasaki Miller '53
1998 Outstanding Alumna

Mariko Terasaki Miller, a 1953 graduate of ETSU, is the first woman appointed Honorary Consul-General of Japan. Mrs. Miller is the daughter of Hidenari Terasaki, a Japanese diplomat, and Gwen Harold Terasaki, a native of Johnson City, who met at the Japanese Embassy in Washington and were married in 1931. Mrs. Miller was born in Shanghai, and spent her early childhood with parents in various posts, including Havana, Peking, Washington and Tokyo. In 1941, her father was again posted to the Embassy in Washington, where he played an important role in desperate, last-minute efforts to avert war between Japan and America. Mrs. Miller returned with her parents to Japan after Pearl Harbor, where they spent the war years. At war's end, her father was appointed advisor to the Emperor and official liaison between the Palace and the Supreme Allied Commander, General Douglas MacArthur. Mr. and Mrs. Terasaki decided that their daughter should become reacquainted with her mother's country, where she could also resume her education. Indeed, the only way Mrs. Miller could enter the United States was if she was admitted to a university or college on a student visa. Having completed the fourth grade (in both languages) Mrs. Miller was accepted to ETSU as a "special student" in 1949. Mrs. Miller is greatly indebted to the registrar, Dr. Frank Fields, whose kindness and willingness to bend the rules made it possible for her to pursue an education. The solicitude and encouragement of Christine Burleson, Mahala Hays, Grace Leab, Edward G. Lodter, Flora Marie Meredith, and Deans Dr. P.W. Alexander and Ella V. Ross, eased Mrs. Miller into academic life. She graduated with honors in 1953, with a major in English and minor in French. In her time at ETSU, Mrs. Miller worked on the student newspaper, serving briefly as editor, participated in the Patchwork Players and other activities, and was chosen as a member of Who's Who Among American Colleges and Universities.

Mrs. Miller married Mayne Miller, an attorney active in politics, in 1953. The couple moved to Wyoming in 1959. Seared by her observations of poverty, hunger and brutality as a child in China, and the realities of war in Japan, Mrs. Miller became a political activist while raising her four sons in Wyoming. Mrs. Miller served on the steering committee of the National Women's Political Caucus, the board of Americans for Democratic Action, the Wyoming Commission for Civil Rights, and the Wyoming Commission for Women, and in 1976, was elected to the Executive Committee of the Democratic National Committee. Mrs. Miller has devoted more than thirty years to issues ranging from the arms race, war and peace, racial and sexual equality, to political reform and overcharging by her local utility.

Mrs. Miller has also become a spokesperson for internationalism and good will between the United States and Japan. Her mother's book, Bridge to the Sun, which recounts the family's experiences before, during and after the war, was published in 1957, and made into a film that premiered in Johnson City in 1961. Bridge was followed in 1981 by Mariko, a biography of Mrs. Miller and her family published in Japan. On August 15, 1981, the anniversary of the Japanese surrender, NHK Public Television broadcast a three hour docudrama based on Mariko and the experiences of the Terasaki family. A profoundly anti-military and anti-war film, Mariko caused a sensation in Japan and was watched by an estimated 80% of the Japanese people during its three broadcasts between August and November of 1981. In 1990, Mrs. Miller discovered the monologue of Emperor Showa (Hirohito) among the papers and diaries of her father. The monologue was published in Japan in 1991, along with reminiscences jointly written by Mrs. Miller and Ko Shioya and passages from her father's diaries.

These publications and films have afford Mrs. Miller the opportunity to continue her parents' lifetime efforts to build a bridge between their two countries. She has embarked on numerous speaking tours of Japan over the past 17 years, some of which were sponsored jointly by the American Embassy and the Japanese Foreign Ministry. In April of 1996, the Foreign Ministry invited Mrs. Miller to Japan to speak at a luncheon hosted by Prime Minister Ryutaro Hashimoto in honor of President and Mrs. Bill Clinton. Mrs. Miller has also lectured frequently in the United States, sponsored by such organizations as the Council on Foreign Relations and the United States Departments of Agriculture, Commerce and Energy. Mrs. Miller previously spoke at ETSU in 1995, at which time her appointment as Honorary Consul-General was officially announced.