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Neighbors: Mary Miller

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  • | 5:00 a.m. November 16, 2011
Mary Miller is a member of the Longboat Key Garden Club and supports many causes in the area.
Mary Miller is a member of the Longboat Key Garden Club and supports many causes in the area.
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When Longboat Key resident Mary Miller sees a need, she tries to fulfill it. Her motto is to live every day as if it is a new opportunity.

“I think when you’ve been given an opportunity, it is incumbent on you to provide the same for others however you can,” she says.

She is on the board of Women’s Resource Center of Sarasota, the board of trustees at Eckerd College and on the board of the Longboat Key Garden Club.

She tutors adult students in writing, knits sweaters for infants (proceeds go to the Women’s Resource Center) and she and her husband, Dan, donated an auditorium at Eckerd College, in St. Petersburg.
Education has been a huge part of Miller’s life.

While college-age, Miller studied nursing in her home of Montreal, Canada, and worked in cardiac intensive care.

At the age of 60, Miller got a bachelor’s degree in human development from Eckerd College through the Program for Experienced Learners (PEL) for later-in-life learners. She did it for her own enrichment.
When she went back to school, it wasn’t for necessity, like a lot of her peers. Many were single mothers, and others needed a degree to further their careers. She says it was a life-transforming experience.

“I saw people who overcame personal obstacles and for whom an education was the ticket to the freedom of choice,” she says.

Naturally, she wanted to give back to the program in which she believed so strongly. However, she hates the term “giving back” — it’s too cliché.

Miller and her husband donated the state-of-the-art auditorium to Eckerd College when they noticed a need. Before retirement, the couple worked in the technical end of motion pictures. It seems fitting that the students use it as a venue for film studies and film festivals. She also donated a step-loan program for students waiting for their financial aid to start.

And Miller saw yet another opportunity to help when a friend took her as a guest to the Renaissance Luncheon for the Women’s Resource Center.

“I knew it was for me,” she says.

The Women’s Resource Center sees 12,500 women a year and offers a number of services, such as peer counseling, domestic-violence referrals, law advice and more.

“I really wanted to support women’s issues, especially in education,” she says. “You have to choose something you believe in and you feel you can make a significant difference in.”

She offers up the words of Betty Schoenbaum, “The joy of living is the joy of giving.”

“It gives you a sense that the reward really exceeds the giving,” she says.

Things You Didn’t Know ...
• She believes in independence. An example of this is the heart tattoo of “M and D” she got recently on her shoulder blade. “If I want to get a badass tattoo at the age of 70, then what the hell?” she asks.

• She and her husband attended the Academy Awards in 1972.

• In 1988, she was invited to the Cultural Exchange of Music in Harbin, China, and sang a song in Chinese on stage.

• She has seven children, four of which are biological.

• She jokes that she doesn’t understand why the Longboat Key Garden Club allows her to sit on its board. “My orchids are silk!” she says.


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