Bonnie Stern Miller to join husband in New Trier H.S. Hall of Honor
Bonnie Stern Miller with husband Tom in Bosnia. | Bonnie Stern Miller
Updated: February 21, 2013 3:06PM
WINNETKA — Bonnie Stern Miller returned to New Trier High School last year to accompany her husband, Tom, who was selected to join the school’s Alumni Hall of Honor.
Thanks to her New Trier friends’ nomination, including her old neighbor from Glencoe, Gail Gumbiner, Miller will join her husband Tom in New Trier’s Hall of Honor Mar. 14. The duo will again speak with the students to share their experiences.
“(The New Trier) students are really enthusiastic and I’m excited to come back,” Miller said. “(The honor) is very meaningful to me and I appreciate it.”
Bonnie and Tom, who met in junior high school, started dating at New Trier and graduated in 1966. The two were able to use their experience working and living around the world, first with the State Department and later with a non-profit helping children, to connect with today’s students.
“About 80 percent of the students had seen the Kony 2012 video and wanted to discuss it since we had interviewed dozens of Ugandan child soldiers who had been kidnapped by Kony’s men and had escaped his Lord’s Resistance Army,” Bonnie said, describing her meetings with New Trier students last year.
“The New Trier kids were really aware of the world,” she said. “They were very comfortable asking questions I would have never asked in class when I was in high school, but now it’s very much interactive teaching based on inquiry and critical thinking.”
After graduation, Bonnie and Tom attended the University of Michigan, married at age 20 and began a journey that took them to Bosnia, Thailand, Greece and many other countries while simultaneously helping to improve the lives of others.
While living overseas, Miller learned about the human trafficking problems that plague many countries around the world and worked tirelessly to help support victims in Bosnia and Greece.
“Meeting young women at a shelter and hearing their stories totally changed me,” Miller said. “You can have as many statistics you want, but being face to face with these women and hearing their stories, I said ‘I’ve got to do something about this.’”
In Greece, she advised nongovernmental organizations and was instrumental in helping them establish the first shelters and psychological programs to help rescued women. She later wrote a paper that was adopted by the Greek government as the National Action Plan Against Human Trafficking.
“There were huge bureaucratic challenges to get an anti-trafficking law passed,” Miller said.
Miller has also worked with educators and parents in some of the poorest countries in Africa, Asia and Latin America to prevent child abuse and improve education. She also worked in dangerous conflict countries such as Iraq, Kosovo, Sri Lanka, Georgia and Kyrgyzstan and, in March, will travel to Macedonia to train professors in conflict resolution.
Back at home she has worked for George Mason University and Virginia Commonwealth University in their graduate social work programs and currently lives near Washington D.C.