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summer 2012
n what seemed like the only clear-
skied two hours in the entire month of
September 2011, university photogra-
pher Ross Mulhausen and I met George down at
Day Island Marina. That’s where George keeps
his old Boston Whaler. The plan was to motor
out onto The Narrows for a photo we would
print in the autumn edition of this magazine.
Navigating into deeper water that day it was
pretty obvious to me, a sailor of minor experi-
ence, that George was processing the tide and the
currents and the wind and about a dozen other
atmospheric and hydrological influences. It was
as if he perceived the aquatic environment in
some sort of dynamic fourth dimension. I didn’t
know it then, but I think I was observing in
George the traits that make him so good at what
he does here at Puget Sound.
George H. Mills Jr. was born in Boston while
his dad, George Hi’ilani Mills, was studying to
be a doctor at Boston University. George Sr. had
grown up in the seaside village of Keaukaha on
the wet side of Hawai‘i’s Big Island. He was one
of the first physicians of Hawaiian ancestry in
the 20th century. After medical school George
Sr. and his family rode three trains and a boat to
get back to the islands, where he set up practice
and soon became known for his pro bono work
with the native population and interest in com-
munity affairs. George Sr. once ran for lieutenant
governor (unsuccessfully) and was a Republican
state senator for four years. On the day he died in
1992, the Hawai‘i House and Senate adjourned
with a moment of silence in his memory.
George Jr. says he acquired a fascination with
the sea at an early age; by the time he was 10 he
was making fishing trips on the ocean. His father
was not fond of water conveyances, so George
started spending a lot of time with a friend’s
dad, one Charlie Winstedt, who owned a deep-
sea fishing boat. Winstedt was a tinkerer. He
taught George the intricate and durable art of
ships’ carpentry and the patience and precision
required to work in a machine shop rebuilding
diesel engines. And they fished—nearly every
weekend and all summer.
George graduated early from Punahou
School, at age 17. He says he was not a particu-
larly good student.
“My head was on the docks, but Mom insist-
ed on at least trying college and made a deal with
me to give it a shot for one year. After that,
I could go back to the wind and waves.”
George picked UPS mainly because he was
interested in the Sound, an inland waterway.
“I’d never sailed in fog,” he said.
And so he came to the university lacking a
great deal of enthusiasm. But he was a curious
lad, inspired by the outdoors and the creatures
that inhabited it, and as is so often the case with
our students, the faculty helped him find his
passion. Eileen Solie A.B.’65, M.S.’67, Gordon
Alcorn ’30, and Robert Sprenger ’40, P’67 were
among his teachers. That one year turned into a
degree in biology and chemistry.
After graduation George had intended to
enter Navy Officer Candidate School but flunked
the physical. Since he lacked a Plan B, it was
Alcorn who suggested that George work toward