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Pensacola State College Named $2.5 Million Trust Beneficiary

Pensacola State College has been given a major gift from a local couple. “I try to encourage all the youngsters that I know to get an education.” Education has always been important to Ron Miller. The long time Pensacola businessman recently sold his company, Arco Marine and other real estate holdings. With that money, he and his wife Jan have named Pensacola State College as the beneficiary of a $2.5 million Charitable Remainder Unitrust or CRUT.

Miller says he wants today’s young people to have the educational opportunities that were not open to him when he lived at NAS Pensacola with his family in the 1940s.

“I lived here in 1947, 8 and 9 out on the base. And I never had the chance to go to college. I went to work right out of high school in the shipyards in Norfolk, Virginia as a welder. (Later) transferred into the construction division building the Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel. And then moved to Washington D.C. when that project was finished (because) there wasn’t any work in the Norfolk area. In the meantime I was studying engineering through ICS courses. And I built quite a reputation for myself in Washington D.C. and started my first company.”

Years later, Miller returned to Pensacola and decided to live here full time. He bought a small auto electric repair shop with three employees and grew it into a world-wide electrical manufacturing business with up to 40 employees. But through all that, education was still on his mind. “I looked back at what might have been if I had the education that these kids have the opportunity to get today. And in my business here in Pensacola, at Arco, we had a program for all of our employees. Anybody who wanted to go to school, take night school and so forth, and learn anything in the evenings after work, that I would pay 50% of whatever it cost for books and whatever the fees were. And if they got an ‘A’, I’d pay 100%.”

Over the years several employees took advantage of that offer. Now, the money from Ron and Jan Miller’s gift will help thousands get an education. At the Monday morning event announcing the gift, Pensacola State College President Dr. Ed Meadows said “Historically, Pensacola State has been the ticket for generations of students seeking a better life for themselves and for their families. This gift is going to help future generations of students to find a productive life. Hopefully here in our community.”

This is by no means the first time Ron and Jan Miller have used their money to help the community. They have also supported Manna Food Pantries, Pace Center for Girls, Pathways for Change, the Pensacola Opera and Ronald McDonald House Charities of Northwest Florida. Jan Miller was named Philanthropist of the Year in 2018 by the Association of Fundraising Professionals of West Florida.

Ron Miller, who will turn 82 in a few months, says he felt comfortable selling the business now because the new owners are young and plan on keeping, and growing the company in Pensacola. He has advice for students just starting out.

“A lot of youngsters ask me and say ‘well man I want to be like you and make all that money’. I say why? (They say) ‘Well if I had all that money I could buy anything.' I say you need to change your attitude, and you’ve got to realize that the definition of money is that it’s a tool to work with. And I said don’t ever forget that. Once you’ve got the money, you can make something happen, but you’ve got to apply yourself. I say you have to have the proper attitude and the proper heart. And you can be anything that you want to be.”

The gift from the Millers is in a Charitable Remainder Unitrust, which is an estate planning tool that provides income to a named beneficiary during the grantor’s life and then the remainder of the trust to a charitable cause. Based upon the terms and conditions of the trust agreement, the Pensacola State College Foundation is the sole beneficiary of the remainder in the Millers’ trust.

Bob Barrett has been a radio broadcaster since the mid 1970s and has worked at stations from northern New York to south Florida and, oddly, has been able to make a living that way. He began work in public radio in 2001. Over the years he has produced nationally syndicated programs such as The Environment Show and The Health Show for Northeast Public Radio's National Productions.