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News / Clark County News

International Air academy founder Arch Miller dies at 82

Miller also served as a Port of Vancouver commissioner

By Will Campbell, Columbian Associate Editor
Published: January 11, 2021, 3:09pm

Arch J. Miller, the founder of the International Air and Hospitality Academy, died Saturday after battling a pulmonary disease for 10 years. He was 82.

Miller earned many accomplishments in Vancouver outside of the Academy: He served three terms as a Port of Vancouver Commissioner and he fought to bring minor league baseball to Vancouver. On top of that, he was a beloved family man.

“He’s been everywhere,” said Miller’s wife, Nancy Miller. “There’s just so much over the years.”

Born in Independence, Iowa, Miller grew up in a small-town setting. After graduating from high school, he joined the Army and spent three years in the service. When he was discharged, he went to the Weaver Airline Personnel School Kansas City, Mo., and then worked for Bonanza Air Lines in Ontario, Canada, according to Nancy Miller.

In 1979, Miller founded the International Air and Hospitality Academy at 2901 E. Mill Plain Blvd. The school trains workers for the travel and airline industries, and it draws students from around the country. In 2013, the school added a railway program.

Miller retired as CEO and president in 2016, passing the job to Colleen Piller, who worked with him for over 27 years.

“Arch was loved and respected by the employees of IAJ from the very first day they started with him,” she said. “He never let a day go by to stop and say hi. He would pop into classrooms, visit with students and make sure they were happy. More than anything, he craved a family culture.”

The school’s staff has a 10-year club for employees who have been at the Academy for over a decade. Piller said 12 people are part of that group, which shows the longevity of the staff under his leadership.

“Everyone here today is mourning the loss,” Piller said.

Miller left behind five daughters and four grandchildren.

“He was a great dad,” said Nancy Miller.

In 1988, Miller earned the Clark County First Citizen award. His accomplishments include serving as a board member of Identity Clark County, and he was the president of the Greater Vancouver Chamber of Commerce board and Vancouver Rotary Club.

He had a great love for baseball, which drove him into a leadership role to bring minor league baseball to Vancouver. It ultimately did not succeed because the team relocated to Hillsboro.

Nevertheless, he and Nancy became Hillsboro Hops season ticket holders. They’d make the 30-minute-long drive to the stadium regularly. He also remained an avid Beavers fan. He and Nancy traveled to see the Beavers win the 2018 NCAA national championship.

“He was the most rabid Beaver,” she said. “Baseball was his passion.”

Miller died of a lung disease called idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis, Nancy Miller said. He was involved in clinical trials for a new drug, which helped him live with the disease for a decade.

“He was the superstar of the pulmonary fibrosis world because he lived for 10 years with it,” she said. “Fifty percent of patients die in four years, and 80 percent die in five.”

The night before Miller died, he was sitting in a recliner chair at his house watching college basketball, Nancy Miller said. He told Nancy and his daughter that he didn’t want to come to dinner. As the two were sitting at the table in another room, they thought he was asleep.

“All of a sudden hear, we hear, ‘Traveling! That’s traveling, ref. Are you going to call that?'”

Even then, he was trying to keep the referees in line, Nancy said.