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Justi Rae Miller

Justi Rae Miller

Associate general counsel, State Farm | 2-time All-Big Ten golfer | Class of 1989

Just how determined was little Justi Rae Miller to grow up to be an Illini?

This determined: “When I was in third grade, I didn’t get an A on a test and was found that night crying myself to sleep. My mom came in and asked what was wrong and I replied, ‘I’m never going to get into Illinois now.'"

“Illini pride ran high in the Miller household,” says Miller, who grew up the youngest of seven kids, four of whom went to Illinois.

“My father attended Indiana University for undergrad and law school in the 1930s, but after moving to Centralia in the 1940s and a friend of Dwight ‘Dike’ Eddleman, he was a big Illinois fan, too,” Miller says from Bloomington-Normal, where she’s associate general counsel in State Farm’s life, health and investment planning section.

“Flash forward to 1985. I had received an early admission so it was an easy decision when then-Coach Paula Smith called to see if I’d play golf for the Illini. And, it was an even easier decision when I was admitted to the prestigious College of Law four years later.

“My favorite memories run the gamut — living in a Six Pack Quad with literally no heat; running across the Quad to classes; attending very cool lectures in Foellinger Auditorium; studying by myself in the beautiful Altgeld Hall; typing papers and final outlines at the computer labs; hearing The Eagles play through the floor — from the bowling alley — while studying in those comfy leather chairs in the Union; working on my short game off of the very frozen turf of the football game parking lots; and competing all over the country as an Illini.

“There is nothing quite like the smell of fall on the Quad listening to the Illinois Alma Mater played by the Altgeld Hall Bell Tower or the cheer and boom of the cannon from a celebratory touchdown at Memorial Stadium.

“Could I have attended another university and enjoyed it? Sure, but not as much as Illinois.”

As for people the two-time All-Big Ten golfer and former Colorado Buffaloes head coach is thankful for ...

1. Coach Paula Smith, “for recruiting, coaching and believing in me.”

2. Carol Reep, academic advisor for non-revenue sports, “who believed in my intellect well before I realized I had any.”

3. The Greens — “Joe ‘Fred’ and Karel ‘KK,’ who were two of my biggest fans and supporters.”

4. Professor Susan Greendorfer, “who taught me so much about sociology of sport, but also led me to strongly consider law school.

“I wouldn’t be where I am today without their support.”