The American Red Cross of the Chesapeake Region will soon bid farewell to Regional Executive Frank L. Miller Jr., who plans to retire Oct. 26 after almost four decades with the nonprofit humanitarian relief organization.
“I think he came out of the womb with a Red Cross pin on,” said Bonnie Stein, the Chesapeake Region’s board chair. “He has dedicated his life and his career to this organization in a number of regions throughout the country, and he has been loved everywhere he’s been.”
Miller has led the Chesapeake Region chapter, which was formerly known as the Red Cross of Central Maryland, since 1992. He immediately breathed new life into the organization, several colleagues said.[“Our chapter] was sputtering when he came in the early ’90s,” said Jock Menzies, who has been a board member since 1980. “There was a lack of energy among the board, and Frank came in and really infused it with a lot of warmth and energy and commitment to the mission.”
Praised as a natural leader with an uncanny ability to mobilize volunteers, Miller has been on the front lines of disaster scenes across the country, helping victims affected by everything from catastrophic weather to small house fires.
Miller’s career began in Knoxville, Tenn., when he became the division representative for that chapter in 1973, and he said he’s spent the past several decades pursuing what he believes is his true calling.
“Some people look and look and look for what they want to do in life,” Miller said. “And I’ve really found it.”
For a man described as infinitely compassionate, the Red Cross was an obvious career choice — but it wasn’t his first.
“I wanted to go into law, but my wife said no,” Miller said, laughing. “She said, ‘We’re going to have a family,’ and I said OK.”
He went on to serve as regional manager at the Red Cross Eastern Operations Headquarters and as director of financial development for the Red Cross Eastern Field Office. Miller has also worked in chapter management in Savannah, Ga., and Jackson, Miss.
Joe Becker, vice president of the Red Cross’s Atlantic Coast division, said everyone Miller has come into contact with is “richer in so many ways for having been part of Frank’s work.”
“There’s, gosh, millions of people who he’s been a part of serving, but there’s also hundreds and hundreds of volunteers who he’s been a part of leading,” Becker said. “We’re losing a good one.”
Miller said he, too, was inspired by the volunteers he worked with.
“One of the most gratifying things about working in the Red Cross is that you’re always working with great people who are motivated to help others,” he said. “That just really helps in the workplace and when you’re on a disaster scene.”
Miller was always the one easing the tension in difficult situations, his peers said. Several repeated the same line verbatim: “Frank always has a story.”
“He’s always able to see the humor in the most incredibly difficult situations … and to have a leader like Frank that can rise up and bring humor to the situation is a real gift,” Becker said.
Stein said Miller also knows when to let loose.
“On the weekends, you can even find Frank riding up and down the road on his Harley,” she said.
And he has no plans of slowing down — literally. Miller said he and his wife will continue to ride motorcycles through the mountains as they enjoy retirement in Maryland.
Officials have appointed a succession committee, and the five members are considering both internal and external candidates. Although Miller will help transition his replacement into the role, several people said his absence will be difficult to get accustomed to.
“He is one of a kind,” Stein said. “There is no way we could find another Frank Miller.”