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Donald P. Miller

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Donald P. Miller
BornMarch 17, 1906
Allentown, Pennsylvania
💀DiedJanuary 23, 1996
Salisbury Township, PennsylvaniaJanuary 23, 1996
💼 Occupation
Newspaper Publisher, Community Leader and Philanthropist
👩 Spouse(s)Marjorie Wright Miller (1909 - 1977) Sara Kalb Miller (1907-2010)
👴 👵 Parent(s)David A. Miller Blanche Berkemeyer Miller
🥚 TwitterTwitter=
label65 = 👍 Facebook

Donald P. Miller (March 17, 1906 – January 23, 1996) was an American newspaper publisher, community leader, and major philanthropist. During his lifetime, Miller created and supported numerous philanthropic nonprofit projects and causes, including construction of a new public library in Allentown, Pennsylvania, the Minsi Trails Council of the Boy Scouts, Cedar Crest College, and Muhlenberg College, both of Allentown, and numerous other cultural, civic, health, and nonprofit organizations primarily in Lehigh and Northampton counties in Pennsylvania[1] Upon his death in 1996, the majority of his approximately $35 million estate was transferred to The Century Fund, a private nonprofit foundation created by Miller in 1985 that supported more than 200 nonprofit organizations.[2]

Early life[edit]

Donald P. Miller was born in Allentown. Affectionately called “Don,” he was the fourth of eight children born to David A. Miller (1869-1958) and Blanche Berkemeyer Miller (1873-1959).[3] Through the benefits of a nurturing childhood and loving parents, Don became a widely known leader by the time he was a senior in high school. His Allentown High School yearbook, published the year of his graduation in 1924, predicted his future as follows:

Captain of the sprinters, Donald Miller has broken so many records and collected so many medals that he has lost track of them long ago. “Don” is a sprinter by practice, but a born editor. If his mother tells you that he was born with an ink-horn in one hand, a quill in the other, and a pencil on the ear believe it. We predict that when Hearst and Curtis have annexed all the newspapers and periodicals, paper wars will cease by making “Don” managing editor of the entire outfit.[4]

When a teenager, Miller already was making a mark in the world by showing community spirit and concern for others. He had an early taste of success in 1922 at the age of sixteen when he became the first person from Lehigh County to earn the coveted rank of Eagle Scout. Immediately after high school he enrolled at Muhlenberg College from which he graduated in 1928 with a Bachelor of Arts Degree.[1] He received great acclaim from his peers who wrote in part, “We challenge anyone to produce a more successful combination of brains, energy, and good Nature.”[5] Don Miller capped his formal education with an MBA in 1931 from what was then known as Harvard Graduate School of Business Administration (today Harvard Business School).[6] He received an honorary doctor of science degree in 1958 from Muhlenberg College and, in 1968, Cedar Crest College awarded Miller the honorary degree of “Doctor of Humane Letters” for his humanitarian and philanthropic contributions to society.[7]

Newspaper Business[edit]

In 1894, Miller's father began work as a news reporter for the paper that became The Morning Call, which served Allentown and the surrounding communities of the Lehigh Valley. Thus began the Miller family's long association with the newspaper they would build to prominence, creating substantial wealth for their family and Don Miller in particular. It was family-owned until it was sold in 1984 to the Times Mirror Company.[1]

In 1934 Don Miller went to work for The Morning Call. By the late 1930s, the company had acquired another Allentown newspaper, establishing what became known as the “Call-Chronicle” newspapers. During these early years he learned about the many aspects of the newspaper business, working in the business office, as an advertising salesman, as a reporter, and even on the delivery trucks. He especially loved working as a photographer.[8]

Miller gradually rose through the management ranks. After the death of his father in 1958, Don and his brother Samuel shared the title of publisher. Upon Samuel's death in 1967, Don Miller became the sole publisher of The Morning Call.[1] This was an era of great growth and modernization, and Don Miller realized that only by adopting the latest technology could the newspaper remain competitive. Under his leadership and guidance, The Morning Call became “a pioneer in production techniques…his management skills helped create a business operation studied by newspapermen around the world.”[9] Miller believed strongly in the importance of community newspapers, excellence in reporting, and responsibility to the public. When he sold the paper to Times-Mirror in 1984, one of the primary factors considered was that “Times Mirror, like the Call-Chronicle Newspapers, believes in community-based newspapers that provide strong support for worthy civic and charitable causes.”[10]

The story of Don Miller's life was captured in 1998, two years after his death, by writer Robert H. Wittman, Jr. In a short biography of Miller's energetic life for the Proceedings of the Lehigh County Historical Society, Wittman stated in part, “…when Donald P. Miller died… on January 23, 1996, nothing less than an era in Allentown’s history came to a quiet end.” Wittman wrote that Miller was “one of Allentown’s leading citizens, and he dominated Allentown’s business life for more than a half-century….”[11]

Personal life[edit]

In 1935, Don Miller married Marjorie Wright. The couple had three children: Joan Miller Moran (1936), Alice Anne Miller (1937-2011), and Edward David Miller (1942). Sadly, Marjorie died in 1977 at the age of 67.[12] In December, 1980, Miller married Sara E. Kalb in a private ceremony at the Miller home.[13] Sara E. Kalb-Miller died on December 13, 2010, at the age of 103.[14]

“Park & Shop” from Allentown: A National Success Story[edit]

Don Miller's contributions to the community went beyond managing a successful newspaper; they are widely known in Eastern Pennsylvania and beyond. One of his most significant and enduring contributions to the city of Allentown and other American cities was “Park & Shop.” Created in the 1940s, the concept was so dynamic and successful that it captured national attention, making headlines across the country.[15]

After World War II, soldiers returned home and started families, creating a huge demand for housing. At the same time, factories converted from feeding the war machine back to meeting demand for all kinds of amenities those families wanted, chief among them the automobile. So began suburban sprawl, a direct threat to the downtown shopping districts of countless cities across America. Allentown was one of those cities.[16] Cities were not designed to accommodate large numbers of cars now flooding streets. If the problem were left unaddressed, consumers would be discouraged from shopping in center city Allentown, thus leading to a decline in the city's vibrancy. The March 1950 Reader’s Digest stated it this way, “This problem was threatening to destroy the business area, tax mainstay of the city. Retail sales were slipping; people were buying elsewhere.”[15]

Miller developed the concept of “Park & Shop” in the 1940s and never took any compensation for his work on the project. He brought together Allentown business leaders and persuaded them to invest $250,000 to create the corporation, Park & Shop Inc.[17] By bringing together merchants, property owners, and Allentown city officials, Don Miller solved a problem that would have otherwise led to the city's decline. The plan called for a “system of subsidized customer-parking through a chain of ten lots encircling the center city section of Allentown. The plan called for a combination of installed parking meters, better enforcement of existing parking at the curb, and a parking fee of 25 cents for four hours of parking in a Park & Shop lot.”[18] Shoppers who had their parking ticket validated at a participating retail outlet received free parking. While the full complexity of the plan is not detailed here, it almost immediately began operating in the black.[15]

The Park & Shop concept attracted substantial national interest. Through the decades that “Park & Shop” existed in Allentown, it became a system of 21 parking lots that are estimated to have served 25 million shoppers. The concept was replicated in other cities across America. Prominent publications with national circulations such as The New York Times, Cosmopolitan Magazine, The Wall Street Journal, and Reader’s Digest published stories about its success and popularity in other cities.[19]

In 1954, Park & Shop was immortalized in the annals of American popular culture. The Milton Bradley Company, of Springfield, Massachusetts, bought the rights to a Park and Shop game version created in 1952 by Traffic Games, Inc., an Allentown-based company. Published reports state that the game was introduced to attract attention and garner publicity to the novel idea that shoppers could park free in lots near the prime shopping areas of Allentown. “The object of the game was to collect your list of errands, printed on little yellow cards, and choose the parking garage that would allow you to complete your errands and get home first.”[20] After purchasing rights to the game in 1954, Milton-Bradley modified the board layout and some of the rules. The success of the game and its widespread distribution underscores the popularity of the Park & Shop concept and its embrace by American popular culture.[21] Don Miller's novel idea of a joint effort supported by business owners, city government, and others to build a ring of subsidized parking lots around the main shopping area of small to medium-sized cities such as Allentown, reflects his business acumen and proactive approach to helping build the community.

Philanthropy and Community Service[edit]

Don Miller's life was predicated on the welfare of his family and community. He learned from his parents, who supported the Allentown community in many ways. They taught their children to be kind, generous and empathetic to others. Don recalled, “The Boy Scouts was a very real interest in my life before I was old enough to join a troop.”[22] Miller became a Boy Scout in 1918 on his 12th birthday, and six years later, in 1922, he became the first person from Lehigh County to become an Eagle Scout.[22]

Throughout his adult life, Miller's interest in philanthropy and supporting charitable causes was always evident. After allocating his time, energy, and civic leadership skills to building Park & Shop, he turned to other projects. For his consistent contributions, he was honored in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, on February 15, 1973, with a “special award of recognition for his community service to the Lehigh Valley.” Another honored at the same ceremony was astronaut Neil Armstrong, the first man to walk on the moon. When Miller was presented his award, “It was for his contributions to the community which are quietly and unobtrusively not well known. The world is a better place for his being here,” said the presenters.[23] Throughout his life, this discreet manner of philanthropy was one of Miller's hallmarks.

Edward D. Miller, Don Miller's son and onetime partner at The Morning Call, said his father believed that “Allentown deserved to have things like the fine arts and education and that people needed to roll up their sleeves and make it happen.”[2] One of Don Miller's notable achievements was his influential work on a campaign to build a new public library in Allentown, which was dedicated in 1978.[24] His father had been a founder of the library and for many years was a supporter of the organization, serving as president of its board of directors. Now the library needed a new home, and the son took on the task. Don Miller used his network of community resources, wealth, and business relationships to help build the library. For months he acted as a fundraiser, building planner, and general philanthropist but turned down all offers from the board of directors to name a room or wing of the library after him.[1]

Another significant benefit to the region is the Samuel W. Miller Memorial Blood Center, established in 1970. The center was named after Don Miller's brother and founded with donations to the Allentown Hospital Association by 175 friends in Samuel Miller's memory. The money was used to purchase equipment needed to create a blood center. When the center opened in September 1971, Don Miller said, “We think this is a grand thing for our three cities,” referring to Allentown, Easton, and Bethlehem.[25] The donations amounted to $27,000, which the Miller family matched.[25] Eventually, the Samuel W. Miller Blood Center merged with the Keystone Blood Center, and the name was changed to Miller-Keystone Blood Center.[26]

The number of nonprofit charities, hospitals, health care organizations, and civic organizations that benefitted from the philanthropic giving of Don Miller during his lifetime is enormous. From the United Way, the Minsi Trails Boy Scouts, and the Lehigh County Historical Society, Don Miller and his family have been major benefactors to their community.[27]

Charitable Benefactor: The Century Fund (1985-2020)[edit]

To enlarge the scope of his philanthropy, in December 1985, Miller created “The Century Fund” with $101,000 of his own funds.[2] When he died in his sleep January 23, 1996, it was, for many, the end of an era and a major loss to the Allentown community he loved so much. Yet Miller's philanthropic generosity transcended his death through the work of The Century Fund. The bulk of his estate, approximately $35 million, went into the fund, making it one of the largest private foundations in the region and continuing Miller's lifelong support of the community.[28]

Through the years, the fund provided $54 million to more than 200 Lehigh Valley nonprofit interests and organizations. Recipients represented Miller's wide-ranging scope of community interest, from health care, recreational, conservation, and human services organizations to many arts, cultural, and educational institutions, including Allentown's Symphony Hall, now known as Miller Symphony Hall. When he set up the fund, Don Miller limited its lifespan with a sunset clause, hoping that by doing so he would ensure that the trust's work would remain close to his original purpose, and that perhaps others in the community would be encouraged to establish similar charitable foundations. When The Century Fund ended in 2020, it honored Don's lifetime of charitable support with legacy gifts to the Allentown Symphony Association ($5 million), the Allentown Art Museum ($2 million), and the Allentown School District ($6 million).[29] At Donald Miller's funeral in January 1996, Pastor Timothy Downs stated, “His was a generosity that shaped the community into a more caring… a more just place.” A fitting tribute to a charitable benefactor who devoted his life to his family, and his community.[30]

Footnotes[edit]

  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 Bob Wittman, “Civic Leader Donald Miller Dies at 89,” The Morning Call (Allentown, Pennsylvania), January 24, 1996.
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 Jon Harris, “A Big Shakeup with Closing of Foundation,” The Morning Call (Allentown, Pennsylvania), May 30, 2021.
  3. For David P. Miller see “Obituary of David Miller,” The Morning Call (Allentown, Pennsylvania), January 23, 1958. For Blanche Miller see “Obituary of Blanche Miller,” The Morning Call (Allentown, Pennsylvania), February 25, 1959. For their children see David A. Miller and Frederick C. Miller, Christian Miller: An American Pioneer (np, nd), 51-59.
  4. Allentown High School, Comus, The Annual Year Book of Allentown High School (n.p.: 1924), Lehigh County Historical Society Archives.
  5. Muhlenberg College, Ciarla, Yearbook of Muhlenberg College, Allentown, PA 18102 (n.p.: 1928), Lehigh County Historical Society Archives.
  6. Robert H. Wittman, Jr., “Donald P. Miller: 1906-1996,” Proceedings of the Lehigh County Historical Society 41 (1994), 14.
  7. For honorary Muhlenberg degree see “Five Men will Receive Honorary Degrees at Muhlenberg Commencement June 9,” The Morning Call (Allentown, Pennsylvania), May 23, 1958. For honorary Cedar Crest degree see “Cedar Crest College Diploma,” May 26, 1968, Lehigh County Historical Society Archives.
  8. Wittman, “Donald P. Miller,” 16.
  9. Donna Haggerty & Joan Harrison, eds., Headlines, Hometowns and History (Allentown, PA: Call-Chronicle Newspapers Inc., 1980), 16.
  10. “Talks with Times Mirror Began in Mid-April,” The Morning Call (Allentown, Pennsylvania), July 31, 1984.
  11. Wittman, “Donald P. Miller,” 11.
  12. For information about Marjorie Wright Miller see “Marjorie Wright Miller, Wife of Publisher, Dies at Age 67,” The Morning Call (Allentown, Pennsylvania), February 15, 1977. For birth years of Don Miller’s children see Miller and Miller, 56. For the death of Alice Anne Miller see “Obituary of Alice Anne Miller,” The Morning Call (Allentown, Pennsylvania), June 12, 2017.
  13. “Sara Kalb Weds Donald P. Miller,” The Morning Call (Allentown, Pennsylvania), December 18, 1980.
  14. “Obituary of Sara E. Kalb-Miller,” The Morning Call (Allentown, Pennsylvania), December 17, 2010.
  15. 15.0 15.1 15.2 Michael J. Saada, “Parking is Easy in Allentown,” Reader’s Digest (March 1950): 72. Story was condensed and reprinted from The Wall Street Journal.
  16. “Central City Merchants Organize ‘Park & Shop, Inc.’ to Provide Free Parking Space for their Customers.” The Morning Call (Allentown, Pennsylvania), November 28, 1946.
  17. “Allentown Merchants Save Shopping Center” Position Document, March 1945, Lehigh County Historical Society Archives.
  18. Donald Miller, Memorandum, 1955, Lehigh County Historical Society Archives.
  19. Wittman, “Donald P. Miller,” 18. “Master Solution of Parking Sought,” The New York Times. Stanley Frank, “Smash Your Car, Lady?” Cosmopolitan (April, 1950): 160.
  20. For the quotation and general information about the game, see Susan Reimer "The board game that launched a lifetime of errand running," The Baltimore Sun, September 16, 2012. For the game’s development in Allentown, see "Obituary of Campe Bertrand Euwer," The Morning Call (Allentown, Pennsylvania), March 24, 1997.
  21. Reimer.
  22. 22.0 22.1 Del Pongracz, “Interview with DSA recipient Donald P. Miller Reveals Interesting Facets of Newspaper Career,” The Morning Call (Allentown, Pennsylvania), February 17, 1980.
  23. Glenn Airgood, “First Man on Moon Gets National Eagle Award,” The Morning Call (Allentown, Pennsylvania), February 16, 1973.
  24. John Clark, “Library Dedication Brings Sense of Accomplishment,” The Morning Call (Allentown, Pennsylvania), September 25, 1978.
  25. 25.0 25.1 “Samuel W. Miller Memorial Blood Center Dedicated,” The Morning Call (Allentown, Pennsylvania), September 10, 1971.
  26. Sonia Csencsits, “Miller Memorial Changes Its Name, Logo,” The Morning Call (Allentown, Pennsylvania), June 18, 2003.
  27. Wittman, “Donald P. Miller,” 20-21.
  28. "Tell us who you Think is the Person of the Century: 1900-1999," The Morning Call (Allentown, Pennsylvania), October 27, 1999.
  29. For a list of beneficiaries of The Century Fund see “2020 Chart Prepared by Century Fund,” Lehigh County Historical Society Archives. For other information about the Trust’s work and closure see Harris.
  30. Bob Wittman, “Former Call Publisher Laid to Rest,” The Morning Call (Allentown, Pennsylvania), January 28, 1996.



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