Where are they now? Lindsey Miller-Lerman
In the past, Swimming World Ias run occasional “Where Are They Now?” columns, bringing readers up-to-date on the post-competition accomplishments of some of the threats in our sport: Summer Sanders, Jeff Farrell, Giorgio Lamberti, Rowdy Gaines, Tracey Wickham, Steve Lundquist and so on. It’s interesting to learn what our stars have been doing in the dry world and reassuring to be reminded that life doesn’t end after the last race has been swum.
But most of us who spend years slogging up and down the lanes never go on to Olympic glory. What becomes of the neargreat-and even the anonymous-who never become household names? What effect does swimming have on our lives in the “real world”?
With this issue, Swimming World begins a continuing series of “Where Are They Now?” profiles of swimmers who have gone on to make their mark in the world outside the confines of a 50-meter tank. First to be profiled is Lindsey MillerLerman.
When Lindsey Miller-Lerman, the trim, diminutive chief judge of the Nebraska state Court of Appeals, was sworn in as the first woman to serve on Nebraska’s Supreme Court in 1998, the Lincoln journal Star described her as “a mighty little mouse from California.” Her selection by then-Governor (now Senator) Ben Nelson drew universal and glowing praise.
In an editorial before her swearing-in, the paper noted that “unlike some ‘first women,’ Miller-Lerman will not don her black robe amid lingering suspicion that she was appointed mainly because of her gender. She is eminently qualified for the position.”
I first met Lindsey Miller when we both represented the USA at the 1961 Maccabiah Games. Back then, she was a 14-year-old dynamo, a hot-shot age grouper from Sherman Oaks, Calif., who was swimming for Peter Daland’s Los Angeles Athletic Club, training with world record holder Carolyn House. Tireless, gutsy and scrappy, Lindsey had set national age group records in freestyle, backstroke and butterfly since she’d been 10.
The U.S. dominated the ’61 Maccabiah Games, and Lindsey won three medals: two gold and a silver. One of her gold medals came in the 400 meter free, where she beat her U.S. teammate, Marilyn Ramenofsky. Marilyn went on to win a silver medal at the ’64 Olympics in that same event, and later to set a world record.
A New Direction
But Lindsey took a different path. “You have to remember, in those days-before Title IX-there were no swimming scholarships for women,” Lindsey said. “In fact, there was no college swimming for women at all. The same was true for high school swimming.”
Lindsey continued swimming for the LAAC through her senior year at Birmingham High, competing at nationals. But when she graduated in 1963, and went off to Wellesley College, her competitive career was history. “There didn’t seem to be much future for me in sport, so I decided to see where academics would take me,” she said.
In the next four decades, Lindsey made her mark on the world. She graduated with high honors from Wellesley, went on to Columbia Law School, where she served on the Law Review.
After receiving her law degree, she married Dr. Stephen Lerman, a pediatrician, and moved to Omaha. There the couple had two children, Hannah, now 27; and Jeremy, now 25.
She convinced the law firm of Kutak Rock to hire her part-time so she could spend time with her children, an arrangement unusual enough to draw national attention. Four years later, she became a partner.
The marriage lasted a decade. For the last dozen years, she has been dating a close friend, Mike Higgins. Nicknamed “Mouse” because of her small size-the
same moniker as Kristina Egerszegi–she’s more like the Mouse that Roared. She became the top-ranking woman on the Nebraska judiciary in 1992 by being named to the state appeals court. The very next year, she was reported to be one of the finalists considered by newly-elected President Bill Clinton for the position of U.S. Attorney General.
Though Lindsey never went on to fulfill her swimming potential, she credits the sport with teaching her the values that led to her real-world success: “Self-discipline, perseverance, good work habits, time management and performing without enough sleep. That’s what I took with me from swimming!”
Lindsey Miller-Lerman hasn’t changed much since she was 14. In fact, at her 30th college reunion, she was voted “most recognizable.” Indeed, except for a few grey hairs, she appears to have been fast-forwarded by a time machine.
She weighs a few pounds less than she did in ’61, and is, if anything, even stronger and more trim. She doesn’t compete in Masters (we’re working on her), but she swims, runs and lifts weights regularly and competes in a triathlon once each year. “Working out is like a mini-vacation,” she says.
Lindsey is also a licensed motorcyclist and is reputed to be the only member of the state judiciary to attend the annual biker rally in Sturgis, South Dakota. Justice Miller-Lerman is, in every way, a Renaissance Woman-definitely not your ordinary, run-of-the-mill Supreme Court judge.
Copyright Sports Publications, Inc. Apr 2001
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