Sam Miller is filled with stories.
Walking into his office, it’s no surprise as to why.
The walls of his office inside Terminal Tower are covered with framed photographs of him standing next to celebrities, world dignitaries, religious leaders and politicians. Take a glance at the wall and you’ll see David Ben-Gurion, Joe Biden and Frank Sinatra smiling back at you, just to name a few.
His large wooden desk is littered with awards and mementos given to him by various nonprofits and community organizations.
While Miller has spent his life building a successful career, he has never forgotten his humble roots, which in turn has spurred him to make a difference in the community.
Miller’s parents were poor Jewish immigrants from Russia and Poland. He recalled peddling rags to neighborhood gas stations in order to make a few cents. He credits a police officer for giving him his first job as a jockey.
His upbringing has served as a guiding light for his philanthropic efforts.
“It’s easy to be generous when there was a period in your life when you had nothing,” Miller said.
After graduating from Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, Miller earned a scholarship to attend Harvard University in Cambridge, Mass., where he received an MBA. He served in the U.S. Navy from 1942 to 1946 and then began working at Forest City.
Miller has been instrumental in the success of Forest City and credited with spearheading the company’s move into land development. He was named treasurer in 1992 and chairman of the board in 1993. In 1995, Miller was joined by Albert B. Ratner as co-chairman of the board.
Education is of utmost importance to Miller, especially when it comes to battling the rampant anti-Semitism throughout the world, he said. Creating bridges between different communities, such as the Jewish and Catholic communities, also has been a key mission in his life. To that end, he’s a lifetime honorary trustee of the National Conference of Christians and Jews and a board member of the Catholic Community Foundation. In 2015, he received a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Diocese of Cleveland and the Catholic Community Foundation.
Throughout his life, Miller said he has seen vital needs in the community, which has motivated him to donate his money to help various people and organizations.
Take Bikur Cholim, for example. Several years ago, Miller said Sora Shapiro, a member of Bikur Cholim’s executive committee, approached him and said she wanted to create a kosher kitchen at the Cleveland Clinic so that observant families would have a place to eat.
“I thought it would be impossible, but it wasn’t. It was really easy,” Miller said.
The kosher pantry opened at Cleveland Clinic’s main campus in 2008. It was expanded to be the Bikur Cholim Hospitality Room and Kosher Pantry in 2013.
Outside of his professional life, Miller said he is proud of each of his children – Aaron, Richard, Gabrielle and Abe – and the lives they have built.
Looking back at his life, Miller said he has always given to people regardless of their race, religion or background.
“I’ve been very happy. People have been good to me all my life,” Miller said.
– Kristen Mott