O’Donnell Brain Institute receives $2 million commitment from the Millers

Carolyn and David Miller

By Brittany Worley

David and Carolyn Miller have long been inspired by the extraordinary giving spirit of local philanthropists. They take their civic responsibilities very seriously and do whatever they can to make the world a better place.

Through the David B. Miller Family Foundation, the Millers recently made a generous gift of $1 million to Southwestern Medical Foundation to be invested in the highest priority initiatives at UT Southwestern Medical Center. “We’ve just been incredibly blessed – so how can you not be compelled to give back?” asked Mr. Miller.

Stirred by the momentum and impact of the Peter O’Donnell Jr. Brain Institute, the couple recently made an additional $1 million pledge. Their cumulative donation of $2 million establishes the permanently endowed Miller Family University Distinguished Chair in Neurologic Disease, to be held by a nationally renowned expert in a specialty area of clinical neurology.

Discovering cures for disorders of the brain is a top priority at UT Southwestern. The Millers’ generous support will help UT Southwestern recruit and retain the brightest minds in the field of neurology, positioning the medical center to reach new heights in scientific discovery and clinical care, bridging the gap between today’s medical challenges and tomorrow’s cures.

“The recruitment of the nation’s top clinician scientists is a key priority of the O’Donnell Brain Institute and will allow us to augment the exceptional faculty experts we already have in place at UT Southwestern,” said Dr. Daniel K. Podolsky, President of UT Southwestern. “This wonderful gift from Carolyn and David will be critical to our ability to tackle the biggest challenges in brain science and medicine.”

For Mr. Miller, a revered community leader and Co-founder and Managing Partner of EnCap Investments LP, a friendship with larger-than-life oil legend Frank Pitts inspired many of his life philosophies. Mr. Miller started his career at Republic National Bank, where he managed the client relationship with Pitts Oil Co. During that time, Mr. Pitts became a close friend and mentor.

“No one has influenced the way I go about business or the way that I try to treat people more than Frank Pitts,” said Mr. Miller. “What he demonstrated so strongly was always treating everyone with respect and dignity, no matter who they were or what their status in life was. I think that’s so important, and it’s something that my wife, Carolyn, and I have worked really hard to instill in our own children.”

Mr. Miller built an incredibly successful career, co-founding MAZE Exploration Inc. in 1981, a Denver-based oil and gas company. In 1988 he co-founded EnCap, which has raised 21 institutional oil and gas funds totaling over $37 billion and now ranks as the eighth-largest private equity firm in the world.

“Over the past decade, it’s become more apparent to me that we have huge challenges in health care in our country. Serving on the Southwestern Medical Foundation board not only has helped me better understand those challenges, but also better appreciate the extraordinary things UT Southwestern is doing to address them,” said Mr. Miller. “My family and I are very pleased to be involved and supportive of an institution that is so vital.”

Mr. Miller joined the Foundation’s Board of Trustees in 2012, bringing wisdom from his 45 years of experience and leadership in the banking and oil and gas industries. He is a member of the Awards Committee, which guides the selection process for The Sprague Award, one of North Texas’ most prestigious awards for philanthropy in health care. Mr. Miller was a major supporter of the Foundation’s 75th Anniversary Gala in 2014 and The Sprague Award event in 2017.

“David and Carolyn’s advocacy and support are driving positive change across our community,” said Kathleen Gibson, President and CEO of Southwestern Medical Foundation. “We are so grateful for all they do – for their beautiful gifts such as this, and the way they lead by example, inspiring our community to give the gift of better health.”

David Miller with his grandchildren

Mrs. Miller has dedicated much of her life to philanthropy and advocacy for education, social justice, and issues that impact older adults. She was an elementary school teacher and obtained a master’s degree in gerontology, growing into a role that oversaw several programs at The Senior Source. An active volunteer, she supports a number of nonprofit organizations in North Texas.

The Millers are shining examples of how generous hearts can enable progress in a city. “Whatever we do, we do it together, as partners,” said Mr. Miller. “We are very supportive of each other’s endeavors.”

Mr. Miller attended Southern Methodist University after receiving an athletic scholarship for basketball. A three-year starter and letterman on the varsity basketball team, he earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees in business administration in 1972 and 1973, respectively. He has served on the SMU Board of Trustees since 2008 and serves as Chairman of the Executive Board of the Edwin L. Cox School of Business. He is also a member of the Maguire Energy Institute Board of Advisors.

In 2004, he was appointed to the National Petroleum Council, an advisory body to the U.S. Secretary of Energy. He was inducted into the Dallas Business Hall of Fame in 2015. In recognition for the lasting impact he’s made on Dallas, Mr. Miller received the Robert S. Folsom Leadership Award in 2017 from Methodist Health System Foundation.

Dr. Podolsky holds the Philip O’Bryan Montgomery, Jr., M.D. Distinguished Presidential Chair in Academic Administration, and the Doris and Bryan Wildenthal Distinguished Chair in Medical Science.