Dr. Jerome Bright Miller
January 3, 1941 − July 17, 2019
We make a living by what we get, but we make a life by what we give.
Dr. Jerome B. “Jerry” Miller was widely known for his extraordinary record of accountable leadership in dentistry and his community at large. He was less well known for his philanthropic pursuits, and that was by his personal choice. He believed as Churchill believed—“a life is made by what we give”—and he gave generously and often. Moreover, he encouraged others to do the same. He believed in having “skin in the game” and advocating fearlessly. His history of philanthropy and support of worthy causes in dentistry remains unparalleled. Throughout his life, Dr. Miller championed educational and leadership opportunities for legions of individuals through the Jerome B. Miller Family Foundation. While serving as the American College of Dentists (ACD)Foundation President, Dr. Miller informed the Executive Office of his generous planned bequest of an additional $1 million to the ACD Foundation from his estate. As Dr. Miller so succinctly stated in 2016, “Making a planned gift from my estate allows me to leave a lasting legacy to the dental profession that has been my life’s work and to the American College of Dentists that serves as the conscience of dentistry. The college champions high ethical standards and professionalism that has made our profession great and will continue in greatness long after I am gone.”
It is hard to imagine the ACD Foundation without the presence of Dr. Miller as a consultant, but his legacy lives on through his generosity and the tireless efforts of Kay Mosley Miller, his beloved wife and lifelong friend of the ACD. The contributions of the Millers in terms of both time and treasure cannot be overstated. This was abundantly evident at the memorial service for Dr. Miller on July 23, 2019 in Oklahoma City. The sanctuary was packed to capacity with an overflow into the atrium. The ceremony, titled “A Celebration of Life,” revealed to those in attendance what a “purposeful life well lived looks like.” Kay executed Jerry’s expressed wishes to the letter, with no detail left unattended. Exotic flower arrangements spilled out of the chapel and each musical selection complimented the video arrangement. Speakers at the memorial service included Drs. John Rutkauskas, Heber Simmons, Theresa Gonzales, and Raymond Cohlmia. The speakers, who represented the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry, the ACD, University of Oklahoma School of Dentistry, and Dr. Miller’s lifelong friend and colleague, Dr. Heber Simmons, shared their experiences and reflected on Dr. Miller’s unique brand of leadership and advocacy. A final loving tribute was given by Dr. Miller’s children, Dr. Juli Miller of Philadelphia and Mr. Kevin Miller of Oklahoma City.
It is widely known that Dr. Miller led at every level of his professional life and devoted considerable time and personal resources to perfecting his leadership style. He was a Past President of the College of Diplomates, American Board of Pediatric Dentistry; the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry; the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry Foundation; the Southwest Society of Pediatric Dentistry; the Oklahoma Dental Association, the ACD; and the ACD Foundation. Dr. Miller spent 28 years as a Trustee for the Oklahoma Dental Association and was a five-time Board of Governors Dental Specialty Board Examiner. For eight consecutive years, he served with distinction as a Trustee for the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry. For 20 years he dutifully served as a delegate to the American Dental Association. Dr. Miller delivered over 75 presentations to various dental meetings and educational groups throughout the United States and was the principal author of over 45 articles in dental journals or related publications.
Dr. Miller was the recipient of numerous honors and awards, including the Distinguished Service Award and Dentist of the Year from the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry and Dentist of the Year from the Oklahoma Dental Association. In 2015, he was uniquely honored by Healthy Smiles, Healthy Children, the Foundation of the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry with the opening of the Jerome B. Miller Center for Philanthropy and Leadership. In 2017, Dr. Miller received the American College of Dentists’ highest honor—the William J. Gies Award—for his sustained contributions to our profession.
Reflecting on the untimely loss of Dr. Jerry Miller, Dr. Tom Connolly, ACD President, commented that “in the context of a professional career you are truly blessed if you cross paths with someone who has a profound influence on you both personally and professionally. Jerry Miller was one of those individuals for me. I enjoyed our conversations, his wisdom as well as his sage counsel at our board meetings. He was a friend, colleague and mentor and I will miss him dearly. Perhaps, no one has done more to advance ethics and leadership in our profession than Dr. Jerome Bright Miller and we owe him a debt of gratitude that can only be responsibly reconciled with the continued development of the next generation of ethical leaders through the leadership portals that he so generously endowed.”