Long-time tech leader Harris Miller dies at 71

Harris Miller, former president of ITAA.

Harris Miller, former president of ITAA.

Harris Miller, who led for the Information Technology Association for America for 11 years and ran for the Senate, has died after a battle with pancreatic cancer.

Harris Miller, a technology leader who helped usher in the broader use of commercial tech by government agencies, died Thursday after a battle with cancer. He was 71.

Miller was the long-time president of the Information Technology Association of America, one of the first trade associations that considered the government as a major market and technology consumer.

He was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in July and died at home on Sept. 15. A funeral service took place Monday and his burial was private.

He is survived by his wife Deborah Kahn and two children, Derek and Alexis. Other survivors are his five grandchildren and a sister, Lee.

In his role as president of ITAA for 11 years, Miller led the association and the tech industry through several milestones in the market and particularly the lead-up to the Y2K date bug.

A potential computing disaster was averted thanks to the work of a lot of people and organizations including Miller and ITAA. In 1998, he testified before Congress about efforts to address the software problem and warned a disaster was coming if action wasn’t taken. Miller and ITAA took on a leadership role including coordinating efforts globally with other technology groups and the United Nations.

He was recognized twice with Federal 100 awards given by our sibling publication FCW. It recognizes individuals for actions that go above and beyond their job descriptions. One award came in 1999 and the other in 2005.

Miller was often a go-to-source for journalists covering technology and government, offering insights on tech trends and their related policy and regulatory issues.

He stepped down from ITAA in January 2006 to pursue the Democratic Party nomination for a Senate seat representing Virginia. Miller lost the nomination to James Webb, who went on to defeat then-incumbent Sen. George Allen (R-Virginia) in a tight race.

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

For the last decade or so, Miller focused on a variety of personal passions and particularly those involving education and the arts. He was president and CEO of the Career College Association. He also spent time at the Association of Public Colleges and Universities. He co-founded the Campaign for Free College Tuition.

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

Miller was born in Pittsburgh and a life-long fan of the Steelers.

His daughter-in-law, Hannah Farber, wrote on Facebook about Miller’s love of family: “You were the herd dog, the manager, the paterfamilias. You wanted the party to be complete. Mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers, friends. All had to be there.”

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

“He really elevated the association to a premier position in the government tech space,” Soloway said. “When I took over PSC, we began to work more closely together.”

In addition to a professional connection, the two shared some family connections between Miller’s in-laws and Soloway’s parents, as well as what Soloway described as “"Bad golf, and sometimes irreverent senses of humor. He was warm, smart as hell, and just generally a true mensch."

Miller’s family is asking that in lieu of flowers, donations be made to a Study Abroad in Europe Award that he established at his alma mater in the University of Pittsburgh. The award supports international travel by deserving students. Click here to make a donation.

The family also suggested that as Miller often did during his life, support Democratic political campaigns.

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

“Message me or anyone else in your life and pass on something good that is happening,” he wrote on Facebook. “There is plenty of space (for) sadness, help us all make room for joy.”