Gail Miller, owner of the Larry H. Miller Group, visited the BYU campus on February 10 to deliver the annual G. Homer Durham lecture. Her talk, titled, “The Impact of Community Service and Philanthropy,” gave insights into her journey as a businesswoman and philanthropist.
Gail and her late husband Larry Miller began their foray into business when Larry purchased his first automobile dealership in 1979. Mrs. Miller described how the company continued to grow saying, “One thing after another we were guided through the business world, adding a piece here and a piece there, until we were very engaged in the automobile business.”
In 1986, the Millers purchased the Utah Jazz, which changed their lives forever. As their company grew and the team gained more notoriety, the Millers found themselves living in the public eye and bringing more attention to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and their values than they could have ever expected.
When Larry passed away in 2009, Gail became the face of the company and took an active role in managing the business. Describing the decision to run the business, Mrs. Miller says, “We had a reputation for being ethical, for being honest, for being fair, for treating our people right and providing good jobs. I knew that I could not let that die, so I gathered my courage and decided to step into a role that I was neither prepared for nor wanted.”
Mrs. Miller felt nervous about the enormous responsibility she faced. She said, “The courage came from knowing that my Heavenly Father expected me to use my talents and my ability as a woman to make a difference.”
While she acted in courage, the transition to leadership in the company wasn’t easy for Mrs. Miller. Working with lifelong businesspeople presented challenges and social discomfort. “I was not respected. I hate to say that, but I was a newbie!” exclaimed Mrs. Miller. “I had to learn to speak up to show that I knew what I was talking about.”
As she gained experience, Mrs. Miller did not forget the values that she and Larry committed to when they started their business, primarily the values of community service and philanthropy. She reflected on the economic crisis in 2008 and 2009 when Larry fell ill. “I told my son, ‘I know that we need to do everything that we can to keep the business alive, but we cannot stop giving.’ We couldn’t give at the level that we did before, but we did not stop giving.”
Mrs. Miller closed with her philosophy on philanthropy by saying, “We have opportunities beyond our capacities when we accept the role of sharing what we have with others. There is so much need all around us but there is so much opportunity to enrich lives and make a difference in this world.”
The BYU Political Science Department sponsors the G. Homer Durham lecture every year, inviting notable speakers to discuss social, political and historical topics. G. Homer Durham served as an educator, General Authority in the Church and as Church Historian during his exemplary life.