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A. Scott Anderson: Sharing a Utah treasure — Gail Miller — with the rest of the nation

Gail Miller, owner of the Utah Jazz, center, poses for photos with her son Steve Miller, Utah Senators Mitt Romney and Mike Lee and son Greg Miller, left to right, before receiving the Horizon Award during the 2019 Gold Medal Ceremony at the U.S. Capitol
Gail Miller, owner of the Utah Jazz, center, poses for photos with her son Steve Miller, Utah Senators Mitt Romney and Mike Lee and son Greg Miller, left to right, before receiving the Horizon Award during the 2019 Gold Medal Ceremony at the U.S. Capitol Visitor Center in Washington, D.C., on Thursday, June 20, 2019.
Cheryl Diaz Meyer, For the Deseret News

As all of us know, Gail Miller is a real Utah treasure. Last month, we were able to share her with the rest of the nation as she received a major award in Washington, D.C.

She was honored with the 2019 Congressional Award Foundation Horizon Award, granted by the U.S. Senate and the U.S. House of Representatives. The Congressional Award Foundation is Congress’s only charity, and the Horizon Award is the highest honor that Congress bestows on citizens from the private sector in recognition of their initiative, service and achievement.

The Horizon Award is associated with the Congressional Award for young Americans. This excellent program is open to all youth ages 13½ to 24. Participants earn bronze, silver and gold certificates and medals by achieving goals in four program areas: public service, personal development, physical fitness and expedition/exploring. Medalists attend an awards ceremony in Washington, D.C., with their members of Congress.

I hope more of Utah’s young people will get involved with this program. About 500 young people were honored this year, but only eight were from Utah, while Wyoming had 22.

I was lucky enough to attend the congressional awards ceremony on Capitol Hill on June 20 when Gail received the Horizon Award. Paxton Baker, chairman of the Congressional Award National Board of Directors, said: “Gail embodies the spirit of this award by using her influence to shape communities for the better. Her life’s work serves as an extraordinary example for our nation’s youth, particularly young women.”

Gail was warmly introduced by Sens. Mike Lee and Mitt Romney, and gracious comments were made by Rep. Ben McAdams. Her many achievements and recognitions were highlighted.

But what touched me most about the ceremony were Gail’s humble comments. She mentioned that when her husband, Larry, died, some well-meaning people advised her to sell the successful business they had built, and to enjoy the remainder of her life with the proceeds.

Gail said that as she thought about it, she felt an obligation to her community, to her 10,000-plus employees, and to her customers (which represent over 90% of the citizens of this state) to continue to lead the business, and to continue to expand it for the benefit of her community.

With her characteristic and genuine modesty, she said that success and money and worldly things are not how she counts her wealth. Instead, her true wealth is counted in relationships, in being able to provide jobs for people so they can support their families and in doing good and helping others.

At a recent dinner in Salt Lake City honoring Gail and the award she received, Harris Simmons, chairman and CEO of Zions Bancorporation, eloquently represented the feelings of many people about Gail: “Over the past several decades, I’ve been in a position, as a banker, to observe thousands of entrepreneurs build businesses. Gail is in a category by herself. I’ve been privileged to see the quiet, unheralded ways in which Gail and her family have stepped in to help people, their employees and others in trouble.

“She gives not only of her money, she gives something much more precious: her heart, her soul and her time. She works in the trenches on issues like homelessness, and many others.”

Harris added, “Gail Miller has really become the conscience of our community — a mother to our community, if you will. She sometimes has to remind us who we are and what we stand for. In March, when she resolutely took to the floor of the Vivint Smart Home Arena to remind Utah Jazz fans that, ‘No one wins when respect goes away,’ we were all stirred by her example, by her real leadership, and we were proud to be associated with a team, and with the family that owns it, who expect as much from their fans as they do from their players.

“One fan, commenting on a website, spoke for all of us when he asked, ‘Where can I buy her jersey?’”

Harris concluded: “Spencer W. Kimball once said that our lives should be like our shoes, worn out by service to others. Gail Miller’s shoes are truly worn thin by her tireless service to so many in this great community. We are all incredibly grateful for Gail’s example, her friendship, and for the countless quiet ways in which she blesses the lives of so many.”