Janice Owen Miller's legacy lives in philanthropy

Janice Miller

Janice Owen Miller was born and raised in Malakoff. Three months after she was born, her father signed up to serve in World War I at age 36. After the war, he and his wife, Willie Riddlesberger Owen, continued to reside in Malakoff where they raised Janice and her sister. After graduating from Malakoff High School, Janice completed a bachelor's degree at The University of Texas at Austin. Janice married Edwin A. "Blue" Miller and they spent their career in Athens operating a business.

Following Blue's death in 1973, Janice remained in Athens, operating their business and investing in her community. Janice Miller loved her community and was known as a generous benefactor, giving both her time and her resources to many groups and worthy causes in and around Athens. She was a member of the First United Methodist Church of Athens, served on the Board of Directors for The Ark student ministry at Trinity Valley Community College and was an enthusiastic supporter of the East Texas Arboretum.

In 2005, with the guidance of her estate-planning attorney and financial planner, Ms. Miller established and began using a donor-advised fund at East Texas Communities Foundation (ETCF). Her donor-advised fund allowed her to continue her generosity in the community by making grants to her favorite charities at any time.

At age 87, the process of establishing her donor-advised fund also allowed her to consider and develop a plan for testamentary giving. Janice wanted to find a simple way to continue supporting her community after her death. Her attorney advised her to create a field of interest fund at ETCF to accomplish this objective. Unlike the donor-advised fund, which permitted Janice to give to an unlimited number of charities anywhere in the United States, the field of interest fund would be limited to making grants to charities serving Henderson County. With thoughtful planning, the fund directed ETCF to consider many of her favorite charities each year, yet also provided freedom to consider other charities in the community. She also wanted the fund to bear the name of both her and her husband, Blue.

When she passed away in 2007, at her direction, ETCF established the Edwin A. "Blue" and Janice Owen Miller Charitable Fund. This fund continues to fulfill her charitable objectives by annually considering the current needs of several of her favorite Henderson County charities and scanning the community for other new charitable opportunities. Since her death, the fund has made more than 115 grants and distributed more than $700,000 to nonprofits serving the needs of the residents of Henderson County. Relying on the advice of a committee of local community leaders who are knowledgeable about charitable needs and opportunities in Henderson County, ETCF administers a grant process each year to distribute income from her fund while the principle remains invested.

While continuing to support her favorite charities such as the East Texas Arboretum and The Ark student ministry, the fund also has been able to make significant investments in new charities that were not in existence during Mrs. Miller's lifetime. As two examples, the fund supported the establishment of the Athens ISD Foundation to support local students and teachers, and the fund also made grants to the Disciples Clinic, a clinic that opened in 2008 to provide low-cost health services to the working uninsured.

The beauty of Mrs. Miller's story lies not only in what she accomplished during her lifetime, but also in the impact her planning for future charitable giving in Henderson County. Her interest in charitable giving, combined with her knowledgeable advisors and the existence of a simple vehicle called a field of interest fund, has allowed her to carry out her long-term charitable objectives. Although no longer physically present, the generosity Mrs. Miller showed during her lifetime continues to thrive.

Perhaps establishing a field of interest fund at the foundation to enable your favorite charities to continue receiving your financial support after you are gone is the next best opportunity for you to Give Well.


Kyle Penney is president of East Texas Communities Foundation. The mission of ETCF is to support philanthropy by providing simple ways for donors to achieve their long-term charitable goals. To learn more about ETCF or to discuss your charitable giving, contact Kyle at 866-533-3823 or email questions or comments to etcf@etcf.org. More information is available at www.etcf.org.


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