Volume 40,   Issue 7                                  July  2005

Issue @ Hand

Miles Above the Rest

He was right, of course, though I didn’t believe him until I’d witnessed it myself. 

I’d struck up a conversation with the consultant sitting next to me at a codes committee meeting, so long ago I don’t remember which one. “Watch him,” he said in a frustrated voice, “watch that guy over there. You can always tell where he stands on this issue and everyone follows along with him,” he said with exasperation showing on his face.

“That guy” to watch was, in fact, Harry Miles. Not having met him before, I studied him intently as the meeting went on. And just as the consultant predicted, Harry did control the contentious meeting. Except he did so in one of the most extraordinary ways I’ve ever seen. He never said a word. 

“See,” the consultant said at one point, “people have such high regard for him that they watch him. You can tell what he is thinking by his face.”

Again, he was right, for over the course of the next three hours, I saw Harry Miles laugh and smile when he liked what was being said, close his eyes and rock when he was deciding and turn bright red a number of times when (I’m guessing) he disagreed with a comment.

But he never said a word. 

Harry Miles was too much a gentleman to ever think to impose his will on others. But others wanted to follow and took his lead willingly. “When I started my consulting business, Harry never failed to find time to read my documents, make comments and suggestions and recommend me for consulting projects,” says Valerie Block of DuPont.

“That’s more than a colleague, that’s a friend.”

Block’s is just one of hundreds of stories about Harry Miles that are being remembered this month. 

Going up to meet him after that committee meeting, I remember being nervous and a bit self-conscious about being all of 24 in a room full of men who knew a lot about glass.

Sometimes when I asked a question, people were condescending (“What could a little girl like you know about glass?” one had shot back earlier), sometimes they just ignored me.

Having watched Harry Miles for a few hours, I wasn’t sure what to expect.

I asked him my question and held my breath. Then he answered it, the way he would have answered it whether I was a 24-year-old girl or a 54-year-old man. He took me seriously. I got the sense right away that was just the kind of guy he was. He treated everyone with respect. And with that answer, I became a lifelong fan. 

“I hate being on the other side of an issue from him,” the consultant lamented, “how do I counter a facial expression?” 

You couldn’t of course—any more than you could resist any of the forces that were Harry Miles. 

In an industry that’s short on heroes, he was a true legend.

—Deb Levy


USG
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