People who knew Ben Miller may think of several words to describe the late lawyer: quiet, philanthropic, solid, steady. When he passed away in December, many of his colleagues, friends and family members honored those admirable qualities by giving to LSU, the school he loved and served throughout his life.
Miller led what most would consider a highly successful life. Throughout his legal career, he was a law professor, helped found one of the largest law firms in Louisiana, and earned the respect and trust of those he encountered. And he attributed it all to his education.
“Ben felt his success was a result of his time at LSU—all of his time at LSU—at the Laboratory School, LSU undergraduate and LSU Law,” shared Bettsie Miller, Ben’s wife. “He felt it was important to give back to the early roots of his success.”
Ben wanted to support future generations of lawyers by ensuring LSU maintains its reputation for outstanding faculty and teaching, the seeds of his success. He established the Ben R. Miller Jr. Professorship through his will.
“He believed in excellence and education,” Bettsie explained. “He had great reverence for many of the professors that he had worked under and from which he learned. He thought this was a way he could give back and help future lawyers with integrity, growth and learning, by having the best professors possible. These sorts of endowments help do that.”
The couple has been philanthropic throughout their lives. Even in Ben’s career at Kean Miller, Bettsie said, he helped clients guide their wills toward philanthropy. “Ben very much had a charitable spirit and lived it passionately through his life with his time, talent and treasure by being philanthropic and helping others be philanthropic, as well.”
Ben’s impact in the legal community and priorities in life were well known, evidenced by his clients’ and colleagues’ reactions to his passing. When Ben got sick, he and Bettsie agreed that instead of sending flowers in his memory, they would ask for donations to a number of causes. The relationships Ben had forged in his legal career led to a number of contributions in support of the LSU Law Center.
“There was such an outpouring of support that there was enough to set up a separate scholarship,” Bettsie said. With especially significant gifts from Kean Miller and Ben’s major clients, including Lamar Companies, the Ben R. Miller Jr. Endowed Scholarship was established, marking the second endowment in his name at the law center.
“That was amazing and touching and humbling,” Bettsie shared. “It spoke to the depth of Ben’s integrity and the constancy of his life, and his importance to the law profession.”
“When he retired … I presented him with a gold antique pocket watch and told him he was the best attorney I had ever had the pleasure of working alongside,” shared Keith Istre, CFO of Lamar, who first worked with Ben in 1978. “It wasn’t just something nice to say. It was the truth. Ben was my mentor, my friend and my trusted advisor.”
Though many benefitted from Ben’s kindness and integrity, Bettsie felt the impact of his gifts the most. “We shared a wonderful life together. He’s been a gift in my life.”
Published in Cornerstone Summer and Fall 2015.