Foundation receives $1.36 million check
Almost 20 years ago, a single woman began a legacy of generosity that has put more than $2.5 million into the Putnam County Community Foundation, and the organizations it supports.
The late Mary Louise Miller, deemed Putnam County's First Lady of Philanthropy, has been honored for her newest gift of $1.36 million in a charitable remainder trust that will help nine groups.
On Friday, her Smith Barney Financial adviser Ted Willer, along with Bob Evans, her long-time friend and executor of her estate, presented Elaine Peck of the Community Foundation, with a check for $1,359,316. The Community Foundation is the repository for funds benefiting the American Red Cross of Putnam County, the Humane Society of Putnam County, DePauw University, Putnam County Hospice Fund, Second Congregational Church of Christ in Rockford, Ill., United Church of Christ (Congregational) in Williams Bay, Wis., Heidelberg College in Ohio and Rockford College in Illinois.
It was in 1989 that Miller first started to plan her estate, and she enlisted then-Greencastle attorney Rob Bremer to set things in order. He realized that Miller's estate was going to be sizable due to the investments she had made during her long career. And that's when he suggested she look to the young Community Foundation as a repository for her assets. She already had an idea of some of the bequests she wanted to leave as her legacy, so Bremer talked to her about the foundation.
"It was an opportunity to let a donor decide how she wanted to help the community," Bremer said.
He brought in Ted Willer to get a better handle on Miller's holdings.
And that took some doing, Willer explained, due to the volume of stocks and certificates that Miller, who was 82 at the time, had accumulated. Some of the stocks dated back to 1929.
"It was a life-changing event for her," Willer said of the process of setting up her charitable remainder trust. When whe saw what the possibilities were, it was a new flower in her life, to watch it blossom and bloom."
Bob Evans said he had known Miller since he was a small boy as she boarded with his family. She joined the faculty at DePauw University in 1942, and during her tenure she achieved the rank of full professor and headed the women's physical education department until her retirement in 1974.
Miller was not well-known in the community, Evans said. She led a frugal life, and invested wisely. Her favorite stocks, Willer noted, were Wrigley and Sara Lee.
With planning and professional management of her charitable remainder trust, Miller was able to take care of herself throughout her long life, at the same time growing her assets, and eventually allowing nine charities to receive the "remainder" interest of $1.3 million through the Community Foundation.
During her life, she gave nearly $1.2 million of direct gifts through some 77 separate donations to the foundation. Most notable was her recognition of the need to help the Community Foundation become independent and self-sustaining.
Miller died in January 2007 at age 97. She is survived by several cousins.