Arjay Miller, a longtime confidant of Henry Ford II who helped modernize Ford Motor Co.'s management and financial controls, rising to president of the company in the 1960s, died on Nov. 3, at his home in Woodside, Calif. He was 101.
His death was announced by the Stanford University Graduate School of Business, where Miller was dean through most of the 1970s.
Miller, reared on a Nebraska farm and educated at UCLA and later Harvard University, was the last surviving member of the so-called Whiz Kids, a group of ten young men who famously persuaded Henry Ford II to hire them in the late 1940s from the Ivy League school, where they mastered statistical analysis for the U.S. military during World War II.
The team -- 26-34 years old and initially dubbed the “quiz kids” because they cajoled Ford colleagues with so many questions early on -- included Robert McNamara, who also became Ford president, though briefly, before serving as secretary of defense under Presidents John F. Kennedy and Lyndon B. Johnson.
Miller and the other Whiz Kids stewarded the company, mismanaged for years by founder Henry Ford, back to profitability.
The automaker was reorganized along some 15 profit centers, each with professional and semiautonomous management. The new operating structure, with a focus on cost controls, robust forecasting and planning, eventually allowed Ford to become a publicly held company for the first time, on Jan. 17, 1956.
“It’s in a failing or difficult situation where talent can express itself,” Miller told Forbes in 1984. “Stars are born in turnarounds and startups.”
Bill Ford, executive chairman of Ford and the great-grandson of company founder Henry Ford, called Miller "an extraordinary leader" who had a profound impact on the competitiveness and resurgence of Ford Motor Co. at a key juncture.