John H. MacMillan ’50
Date posted: July 8, 2015, 11:49 am
John H. Mac Millan, cherished husband of Ellen B. Mac Millan of Cary, North Carolina, died peacefully on May 30, 2015. He was born December 9, 1928, the son of Henry John and Mary Ruth MacInnes Mac Millan. Born in Providence, Rhode Island, John spent his childhood in Delmar, New York, and most of his career in Lynchburg, Virginia. In 1957, he joined Babcock & Wilcox in Lynchburg and retired in 1987 as the senior vice president of nuclear power and technology for McDermott International (formerly Babcock & Wilcox). He came out of retirement to become the executive director of the North Carolina Low Level Radioactive Waste Management Authority. He retired again in 1998. Although he had many accomplishments and awards, John was most of all a loving and nurturing family man. John was a life-long learner. He graduated from Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1950 and was named a Rotary Scholar to attend graduate school at the Imperial College, University of London. Later, his first employer, Boeing, sent him for another year of study at the then-classified Oak Ridge School of Reactor Technology. He was extremely proud to have helped in the design, building, and trials of the nuclear ship Savannah, a US atoms-for-peace project in the 1950s. He was known to be humble, honest, and hardworking: also talented, intelligent, and nurturing to his family, employees, and acquaintances. In addition, he had the “Mac Millan competitive streak,” so named by his family. He excelled in many sports and won many competitions, such as the Virginia Inland Sailing Association regatta, the Virginia State Seniors Squash Championship five times, and the MIT Athlete of the Year in 1950. He was also known to regularly defeat all other family members in a fierce game of Yahtzee. His persistence and dedication were honored by several organizations. He was named Best Citizen of Bethlehem Central High School, an Eagle Scout, a member of the Tau Beta Pi national engineering honor society, a fellow of the American Nuclear Society, and a member of the North Carolina Order of the Long Leaf Pine. His love of music was a constant in his life, whether playing the trombone in high school or singing in the choirs of Trinity Lutheran Church in Lynchburg, White Memorial Presbyterian Church in Raleigh, or the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Raleigh. When he retired, he decided to learn to play the bassoon and became a part of an amateur group of retirees known as the Second Wind Quintet. He enjoyed the North Carolina Symphony, all classical music, the Canadian Brass, and ragtime.