In Renaming its Business School, a Community College Makes History
With the renaming of its business school in fall 2022, Salt Lake Community College added one more crack in the ever-breaking “glass ceiling.” The U.S. institution can now claim the only business school in the state of Utah named solely for a woman. The Gail Miller School of Business is also one of only a few in the U.S. that can make the same claim.
SLCC renamed its school to honor Miller’s philanthropic support, most recently a $10 million dollar donation that supports student programs and renovation of the school’s building.
The business school is the second largest at SLCC with approximately 13,000 students enrolled each year. To these students, Miller is more than a name. She is present on campus, and she is a role model for young women attempting to break barriers themselves, says Alison McFarlane, Vice President Emeritus, Institutional Advancement. “She has incredible business acumen, and she’s also one of the most generous, humble people you will meet. Our students know her and look up to her.”
Miller and her husband, Larry, had a long history of philanthropy, and were long-time supporters of SLCC. When he died in 2009, Miller, once a stay-at-home mom, stepped up to helm the family businesses, an empire started with a car dealership in 1979 that would grow to include a portfolio of companies in the real estate, health care, finance, and sports and entertainment industries.
Miller served two terms on the SLCC Board of Trustees, including as Chair from 2013 to 2017, and is currently Trustee Emeritus. She lends her name and commitment to the SLCC annual Gail Miller Leadership Cup golf tournament to support student scholarships. She served as honorary Chair of the college’s comprehensive campaign, I’m In, and her gift to the business school helped conclude the campaign at $51 million.
McFarlane, who retired last fall, says working with Miller was a highlight of her career. She shares a story to highlight how the philanthropist and business leader is valued on campus. When Miller was stepping down from the Board of Trustees in 2017, the college wanted to honor her.
“We could have given her a plaque, but that’s not Gail,” says McFarlane. “We invited students to come by the board room, each with a flower and a personal note. They lined up and came through the room one at a time, filling vases with flowers and handing her their notes. It went on for a quite a while and the emotion and gratitude was so genuine.”
When McFarlane thinks back on her career in advancement working in the community college space, she says she can sum it up in one word: students. “That’s something that Gail and I always had in common. We never lose sight of the power of community colleges to propel students, and for so many, to change their lives. And I love to think about the next generation of businesswomen, inspired and empowered by their school’s namesake.”
About the author(s)
Ellen N. Woods is Writer/Editor at CASE.
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