Early last December, a group of Minot High School graduates from the Class of 1970 traveled to Maryland to visit Minot native and fellow classman Vice Admiral Michael Miller. They presented him with a portrait by Minot artist Vern Skaug, which was commissioned in honor of their friend's appointment as 61st Superintendent of the U.S. Naval Academy at Annapolis in the summer of 2010.
Don and Sherry Hummel, Jay and Dyanne Altringer, Byron and Chris Blowers, and Greg and Lu Anne Luck had attended Miller's promotion to vice admiral and the academy's change of command ceremony that summer, after which Miller offered to host the group at a future date that would coincide with last December's Army-Navy football game. The Army and Navy college teams have a rivalry that stretches back for more than a century, and is one of America's most-watched college football games.
Of the original four couples invited, Greg Luck and the Blowers were joined by Darroll and Joanie Myers, Dr. Mark and Becky Odland, and Dr. Mark and Linda Hildahl to take up the invitation and present the portrait. The portrait was the brainchild of a casual conversation. Chris Blowers and Dyanne Altringer took the initiative in commissioning the portrait, deciding on Minot artist Vern Skaug. Skaug has been a portrait artist for the North Dakota Rough Rider Hall of Fame for the last 20 years. In addition to those who went on the trip, friends Darwin and Nancy Langseth, and Tom and Cheryl Lowe contributed to paying for the portrait.
U.S. Naval Academy superintendent Vice Admiral Michael Miller, a Minot native, stands by his portrait painted by Minot artist Vern Skaug and presented to Miller by some of his friends back in Minot.
Meeting in Baltimore, the group stayed with Miller and his wife, Barb, at the academy's Buchanan House, where the superintendent lives. They were shown the Naval Academy campus and attended an academy alumni social, the evening culminating in the traditional pep bonfire that precedes the Army-Navy games. In addition to conventional rally proceedings with the cheerleaders and the Navy's popular Electric Brigade, the celebration features the burning of the Army's mule mascot in effigy. "They take the game seriously," Luck explained.
"It was a great opportunity to have an inside look," Hildahl said of the experience. He was excited to experience an event so steeped in tradition.
The next day the group traveled to Philadelphia, where the game was held at Lincoln Financial Field home to the Philadelphia Eagles. After a tailgate party before the game, the group joined some 70,000 spectators as the Navy beat its rivals in a close game 17-13. It was the team's 11th consecutive victory in the rivalry, which it leads 57 victories to 49 overall, with seven tied games.
Afterwards the Minoters were swept up into the boisterous celebrations that overtook Philadelphia for the night and much of the weekend. In all, they spent about five days on what could be unanimously described as an enjoyable trip.
"This probably is a once-in-a-lifetime experience for most of us but one that was well worth it, and we are forever grateful for the hospitality we received," said Greg Luck, himself a Navy veteran. It was very nearly an experience missed, as the day before leaving his wife, Lu Anne, had broken her ankle. It was at her insistence that Luck was compelled to continue on as planned.
A decorated combat pilot, among other distinctions Miller was the first-ever active duty officer to direct the White House Military Office, a position that dates back to Washington's aide-de-camp.