As an event organizer in Altadena, California, Inger Miller ’94 networks and keeps a stream of weddings, conferences and trade shows running smoothly. But in her free time, she retreats to Tubac, Arizona, population 1,191, where she swaps her impeccable outfits and high heels for cowboy boots and a pickup truck. She tends to her chickens, horses and dogs. In Tubac, she refuels and relishes a life well lived.
Miller always dreamed of becoming a Trojan. Her father, Olympic medalist Lennox Miller ’69, DDS ’73, had come to USC from Jamaica on an athletic scholarship. Inger and her sister, Heather Miller MD ’03, grew up at the Coliseum and on campus, eating doughnuts at the late-night haunt Spudnuts across the street. Like their father, they were fast runners, and Inger came out of John Muir High School in Pasadena as one of the nation’s top track and field recruits.
At USC, Miller had a packed college career. A biology major who aspired to become a veterinarian, she shuttled from classes and studies to practice and competitions. “I didn’t have room for anything else,” Miller says. “But I loved it.”
Her hard work shot her to the top of the track world. She won an Olympic gold medal in the 4×100-meter relay in Atlanta in 1996 and four World Championship medals after that. (Lennox and Inger Miller were the first father-daughter medalists in the history of the Olympic Games.) As Miller’s athletic career began winding down in 2002, she again considered pursuing veterinary medicine, but the prospect of going back to school at 30 seemed daunting. Instead, she and her best friend from high school, Jill Hawkins, opened an event planning business, and in 2005 Miller retired as a professional athlete.
Looking back, Miller says that USC equipped her with two essential skills for success: discipline, learned from the need to manage her time well; and confidence. “I wasn’t a business major,” she says, “but I started my own business, and I had the confidence to do that.” She credits her self-assurance to her many experiences speaking in front of her classes at USC and interacting with other students, faculty and staff.
As busy as Miller is, traveling between her clients’ events in California and her horses in Arizona, she still finds time to remain involved at USC. She is president of the Second Decade Society, USC’s group for alumni who earned a bachelor’s degree between 1983 and 2003 or graduate alumni now in their 30s and 40s. She also co-chaired this year’s USC Women’s Conference in March, a gathering that inspired and energized her.
Women in their 30s and 40s, her own demographic, are “holding our own in all areas of life,” she says. “We have learned to be very independent and strong. We’re standing up there with the men, saying we can do the same things you do, our opinions matter, women’s issues matter. And I’m happy to be part of it.”