This archived article was written by: Scott Frederick
I was eating dinner at a friend’s house Saturday night and happened to glance at The Salt Lake Tribune and a story about Larry Miller. Miller has diabetes and for the past while has been suffering from complications of the disease. The story in The Trib reported that Miller had both legs amputated right below the knees.
I worked for KJZZ TV (a Larry Miller company) in SLC for almost 10 years and in that time was lucky enough to meet and visit with Miller on a few occasions. I imagine Miller having the same attitude Richard Pryor describes (on his comedy album Live on the Sunset Strip) a zebra having when a lion chews off half his a– … the zebra says: “f— it … I’m alive.”
I will never forget walking past Miller in the halls of KJZZ one day probably a year or so since I had seen him last … “Hi Scott,” he said just like we had been hanging out the day before. I was impressed that a guy with so much on his plate would remember my name and acknowledge me in an easy down-to-earth manner.
On every occasion I was with Miller, I was fascinated by his stories and his attention to background detail which made the stories have tremendous impact. Because Miller had been all over the world and had met so many people, his stories were riveting. His recall of Toyota auto parts is legendary. While we were talking during a break in an interview, Miller indicated he could remember around 12,000 part numbers and parts from his days as parts manager at one of the Toyota dealers in SLC.
When I first began attending CEU, I was the typical starving student. One night as I was munching on a dinner of Doritos and Diet Pepsi, I had an idea. While working for KJZZ, I shot a bunch of still photos just for fun while working on video shoots. The camera man for KJZZ Dennis Lyman and I traveled all over the Salt Lake valley shooting commercial spots and also shooting some of Miller’s pet projects. Miller has always had a sense of history and how things change so he had us shoot these projects to document them.
We shot the construction of the Mayan restaurant and Jordan Commons. We shot the creation and building of the John Stockton sculpture by SLC artist Brian Challis. We also shot the construction of the Miller Motor Sports Park in Tooele. At all these shoots I took bunches and bunches of still pictures. So I had an idea … I wonder if Miller would be interested in buying these pictures to help me pay for my education?
It turns out he was. After some negotiating with Randy Rigby, the number-two person in the Larry Miller group of companies, we decided on a price. As Randy and I reached the conclusion of our deal, he said, “here is Larry’s phone number … he wants you to call him … he is interested in education and would like to talk to you about yours.”
I was excited and intrigued … what would Larry Miller want to discuss with me? After I called him a few times and finding him unavailable he finally reached me. Ya … Larry Miller called me. “Scott … Larry Miller,” he said as I picked up the call and my jaw from the floor.
He continued, “Listen … I don’t have any specific numbers but I would like to help you with your undergraduate education … figure out what it is going to cost and send me a summary.”
When I read the article about Miller losing his legs it reminded me I had not yet been in touch with him concerning his generous offer.
It also reminded me of video of an interview with Miller I had seen about a month earlier when he was awarded Utahn of the Year by The Salt Lake Tribune.
In the interview, Miller speaks of his business achievements and some of the reasons he has been successful and right in the middle of the interview, Miller says, “We sat down and talked to each other … what do we want our legacy to be? And we talked about a couple things … we talked about education … I’m naï ve enough to believe that if somehow we could educate everybody in the world at a proper (whatever that is) level, say a university level, that would do so many things for feeding people, politically, and so on that I think it would solve the world’s problems … now that’s not going happen but what we decided was we could still have an impact on education and educating a lot of people.”
As I watched that video and remembered Larry’s offer … and as I thought about my education at CEU and the teachers, family and friends that have helped and supported me, a lump rose in my throat.
I believe education can solve the world’s problems too. I believe ignorance is what keeps people enslaved. Whether it is slave to a dictator or our own appetites, the lack of learning and understanding the world around us and not having a broad view of our surroundings inhibits us from living to our potential.
Ignorance leads either to greed, which causes violence, and adds to the economic disparity we see between the have and the have nots or it leads to apathy in general or political powerlessness in particular.
In our economic climate, it seems education is one of the first things on the chopping block. This seems counter productive … we need better educated, broader minded people to work on the problems we face … and we need them now.
Whether it is with the support of our state government or not, we in our community or as individuals … need to follow Mr. Miller’s example and do what we can to keep our schools strong, to keep the excellent teachers we have and continue to attract bright, talented teachers to our area. Providing a solid education seems like the best thing we can do for our children and ourselves.