The following story was featured in the newsletter "Smart Giving for the Savvy Philanthropist."
When Andy Miller met Denise at the medical library where they both worked, Andy didn’t know they would someday build a family to continue the Miller legacy at Mizzou. All Andy knew was that he wanted to take Denise to dinner. “I just hoped she’d say yes,” remembered Andy.
He treated Denise to fine dining at the Harvest Moon restaurant in Columbia – a steep investment for a college student – but Andy was fortunate. He was an accountancy student at Mizzou and his advisor, Ray Dockweiler, had helped him land a paid internship with Jim Antonio, assistant state auditor. It was 1977 and Andy earned an impressive $500 a month. The future looked bright.
As Andy completed his degree from the nationally recognized School of Accountancy, Denise continued her studies in marketing. Soon after they graduated, they married and moved to St. Louis where Andy began his career with Touche Ross. Denise launched her career at American Mutual, which was later acquired by Liberty. They had three children: Melissa, Meredith and Michael.
As Andy’s career developed, he moved to Arthur Young, which merged with Ernst & Whinney in 1989 to become Ernst & Young. He was promoted to partner that year to become one of the first new partners in EY. Throughout his career, Andy never forgot his close ties to Mizzou. His father was Dean of the College of Library Information and Science (which later joined with the College of Education) while his mother led the Science Library at MU. His brother was an engineer and his sister a librarian, both because of their Mizzou credentials. MU had played a significant role in their lives.
At an early age, Andy and Denise began to give back to the institution that gave them so much. They were able to leverage their giving with a generous EY match to maximize the impact of each gift.
In 1993, when Andy’s father passed away, it was time for Andy to deepen his relationship with Mizzou beyond his annual gift. By then, he had climbed the ranks at EY and was enjoying an impressive career as Partner. He served as Professor-for-a-Day and attended EY recruiting events on campus. He had joined the School of Accountancy Advisory Board.
In 2007, Andy joined the college’s Strategic Development Board, where he continues his dedicated service today. Recently, when the college welcomed its new Dean, Ajay Vinzé, to campus, Andy hosted an alumni dinner in St. Louis to connect Ajay with accountants who hailed from Mizzou. Along with School of Accountancy Director Vairam Arunachalam, the Dean fielded questions from alumni and shared his vision for the college. Following his retirement from EY in 2016, Andy began teaching accountancy courses part time in order to stay connected and to impact the talented students who will soon launch their own careers as accountants. “I have pretty impressive student reviews,” Andy mused.
As a donor and dedicated alum, his commitment to higher education is extensive – and two-fold. Mizzou has had a deep impact on his family, from the academic home in which he grew up, to the rewarding career he launched because of his professional preparation in the School of Accountancy. “From a self-interest perspective, you want to help the school you attended as it helps you throughout your career,” said Andy.
But just as importantly, Andy says he feels that higher education is critically important to the state and to the economy. Education is a driver of development and progress, and the graduates who leave these programs are better prepared for the world ahead.
This deep connection is what enabled a conversation with Andy and Denise about how they would make a lasting impact at MU. Because of their close ties to academia, they understood the importance of estate gifts. Looking ahead, they strongly felt that an unrestricted gift to the School of Accountancy Excellence Fund would allow the college the most flexibility to do what made sense for the program once the gift was realized.
“To make universities work,” said Andy, “they need strong research, access to databases… funds that allow them to buy the foundational elements to make the programs work. It’s not glamorous, but it’s important. To be a top flight university, they need a good foundation. Providing flexibility to the program director allows them to do the right thing with the money.”
They decided to combine their gift into a “blended gift” that includes $500,000 to the School of Accountancy unrestricted fund as an estate commitment, along with a 5-year pledge that pairs $50,000 from the Millers, and the ever-impactful EY match. Combined, their recent $600,000 commitment to MU will have an incredible impact on the college and the School of Accountancy. Their gift advanced their membership level in the Davenport Society to Distinguished Patron with a total of $1.1 million in generous commitments.
Their three children all pursued degrees in higher education; two became Mizzou Tigers. They’ll soon round out their family with their fourth grandchild.
“They’ll all be Tigers,” jokes Andy. Because of alumni like the Millers, those future Tigers will access a strong university with the strength of a legacy.