A Judging Trailblazer: The Katherine Miller Sackett Story

Photo courtesy "Skating" magazine

"If we accept the fact that better skating demands staying on the beat, then isn't it logical to bend every effort toward the accomplishment of that goal? Though all skaters are not musically inclined, there is no justification for the belief that some skaters are hopelessly incapable of developing an acceptable sense of rhythm. It is quite possible that many skaters have been unwilling to devote the work and study necessary to develop better understanding of timing and expression. Years are spent practicing school figures and learning dance steps, but it is probably agreed that little actual effort is devoted to analyzing music." - Katherine Miller Sackett, "Skating" magazine, December 1944

The daughter of Susie (Scott) and Harry Miller, Katherine 'Kathy' Scott Miller was born November 9, 1902 in Minneapolis, Minnesota. A middle child, she grew up with her parents, older sister Grace, younger brother Keith and a live-in housekeeper from Sweden in a modest home on Grand Avenue. Her father was a grain merchant by trade. At the age of four, she took her first steps on the ice on a local pond and a lifelong love of figure skating began.

Katherine eventually married Bob Sackett, the district manager of a stock food supply company. Bob's work brought the couple to Norfolk and Omaha, Nebraska and later, the Windy City - Chicago, Illinois. Katherine and Bob joined the Omaha Figure Skating Club and Figure Skating Club of Chicago, where they took up ice dancing and soon became USFSA judges. As a young woman Katherine had studied at the (St. Agatha's) Northwestern Conservatory of Music in Minneapolis, where she developed a broad musical background and an understanding of timing and rhythm that proved a great asset to her as a skating judge over the years.

During World War II, Katherine and Bob moved to California, where they joined the St. Moritz Ice Skating Club. It was in California that both became quite involved in the USFSA. Bob served as the Chairman of the USFSA Midwestern Committee for two terms and in 1951, served as the association's First Vice-President. Katherine served as the Dance Vice-Chairman for Music and Special Projects but was more interested in judging than sitting on committees.

Harold Payne, Katherine Miller Sackett and Rose Kanger. Photo courtesy "Skating World" magazine.

Katherine progressed through the judging ranks and in the spring of 1952, she made history as the first American woman to serve as a judge in an officially recognized event at the World Championships. At the time, judging was definitely an 'old boy's club' with only a small handful of women - mostly Britons - being nominated by their federations to act as officials at ISU Championships. In an era when British dance teams utterly dominated, Katherine advised American teams to put more effort into their free dancing in order to gain an edge on the competition. She penned numerous articles for "Skating" magazine and put in countless hours educating judges at conferences and seminars.

Photo courtesy "Skating" magazine

Katherine continued to judge at the U.S., North American and World Championships throughout the fifties. She was America's judge in the dance event at the 1953 World Championships, the 1955 World Championships in men's and dance and the 1959 World Championships in men's and pairs. In 1960, she was appointed as an alternate judge for the Olympics in Squaw Valley. She submitted her resignation as a World Figure and Dance Judge to the USFSA in 1966, but continued to serve as a National and Gold Dance Judge for several years afterwards and was one of the founding members of the El Camino Figure Skating Club of Belmont. She passed away on February 24, 1990 in Palo Alto, California at the age of eighty-eight and her pioneering contributions as a judge are all but overlooked today.

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