Heartland Institute toasts stellar journalist, Dan Miller, on his retirement

July 12, 2010

On Thursday, July 8th, past and present associates and friends gathered at The Erie Cafe at 536 West Erie Street in Chicago to honor Dan Miller.  It was on June 30th that Dan Miller stepped down as executive vice president and Publisher at The Heartland Institute, where he had worked since 2008.   Joseph Bast, CEO of Heartland Institute, called it “hanging out” at Heartland for the last two years, although Mr. Miller did have a part in helping to launch the Institute back in 1988. 

 A screen in the front of the dining area at The Erie Cafe presented flash backs of Dan Miller’s life in the newspaper business.  And what a stellar career it was!  Dan Miller’s newspaper career started as a rookie in Michigan where he worked for newspapers in Ann Arbor, Ypsilanti, and Grand Rapids, followed by a position at the Chicago Daily News.   It was in 1978 that Dan launched Crain’s Chicago Business, serving as editor for 10 years.  From 1994 to 1998 Dan Miller was chairman of the Illinois Commerce Commission.  Thereafter Dan Miller became Business Editor of the Chicago Sun-Times, which he left to join Heartland in 2008.

 Mr Miller has been honored in the past as when he was named Illinois Journalist of the Year by the Northern Illinois University faculty in 1981.   And it was in 2005 that Dan was inducted into the Chicago Journalism Hall of Fame.  Dan also appears frequently as a featured guest on television and radio public affairs programs.

 With such an illustrious background it was appropriate for the Heartland Institute to toast Dan Miller live.  It was emphasized to those gathered on Dan’s behalf that the occasion was a “toast”and not a “roast”.  Although I have only know Dan Miller for several months, and as the Heartland member who introduced me to Heartland’s Freedom Pub where fellow pubbers meet to exchange ideas, it was not difficult for me to understand why Dan affected so many individuals in so many ways throughout his journalism career.  It was evident that Dan has a genuine love of people and that he cares about them, as I watched Dan repeatedly greet each guest (and he knew them all) with hugs and smiles. 

In describing the tenor of the event, a “light” roast seems an appropriate description of the occasion.  But there were many serious moments, such as when those who knew Dan best spoke repeatedly of those inherent qualities which mark Dan as an exceptional individual.  Heard often was Dan’s search for the truth.  To Dan truth does matter; it’s moral and it’s right. 

Although my writeup would be far too lengthy if I listed each person who spoke on Dan’s behalf, here are the highlight of five who did speak. 

CEO Joseph Bast, upon congratulating  Dan Miller, and after informing those gathered that Dan was a marathon runner since May of 1987 and that he had an intense love for Chicago, Bast went on to reveal some gifts for Dan.  Since Dan’s love for Chicago didn’t leave him time for visiting the suburbs (Was it out of fear? Joe asked. ), Joe Bast presented Dan with three gift certificates to widely separated suburban restaurants and a map to locate them.   But it didn’t end there.   Bast went on to describe Dan’s fascination with China, after which he presented Dan with some token gifts from China.  They were:  a Hawaiian mug, a hat, a salt and pepper shaker, and a bundle of old pens.  What relationship did these gifts have to China?  As remarked by Joseph Bast,  “They were all made in China.” 

Next up was Jonathan Hoenig, better know as the “Capitalist Pig.”  Hoenig spoke of Dan’s search for the truth.  Upon reflecting upon Dan’s past career, Johathan Hoenig suggested that “this is not a retirement party, but your commencement onto more chapters in your life.

Joe Morris, president of the Lincoln Legal Foundation, told how Dan stood for freedom, liberty and the printed word, how these were his passions, and how  Dan would always fight for freedom and the truth. 

Following Morris was Bruce DuMont, host of  “Beyond the Beltway” heard every Sunday evening from 6:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. on WLS-AM 890.  Mr. DuMont said of Dan Miller:  “Dan is the most decent, honest, and passionate person I have ever met in my life.”  DuMont went on to say how Dan had been a mentor to many in building their careers.  Dan Miller also helped to keep DuMont’s old show on the air before it was changed to “Beyond the Beltway”, and it was with Dan’s encouragement that the Museum of Broadcasting and Communication became a reality.  Further describing Miller as a man of honesty, passion, integrity and vision, DuMont suggested a new career for Dan Miller —  mayor of Chicago.because Chicago needs new leadership and one with the ability to communicate.  DuMont indicated that his remark was not entirely “tongue and cheek”, which prompted those present to take up the call, “Run Dan, Run.” 

Terry Savage, a Sun-Times columnist, described Dan as one who set high standards for integrity and bravery.   Savage spoke of Dan as her mentor and admitted that Dan corrected many of her errors.  Terry’s gift to Dan was a bowl filled with lemons to establish a new career path – a lemonade stand.

Chris Whitehead,, a Business reporter with Sun-Times media Group, Inc., spoke of Dan as being the Business Editor when he was hired as a copy editor.   Mr. Whitehead further related that it was difficult to tell Dan’s political leanings, and how Dan was not afraid to cover the story if a business did something wrong.

It was finally time for the honored guest to speak, Dan Miller.  Dan emphasize that nobody does anything by themselves.  In a sign of humbleness, Dan indicated how everyone in this room could be so honored as to what they have done and those they have touched during their lifetimes.  It was somewhat sobering to hear Dan say that he is the first male in his side of the family to make it to 65.  Dan attributed this feat to his running. 

 In closing Dan had this two-fold advise:  Take care of your body and get into a Roth IRA.  

Cake and coffee followed.  Not only was the cake delicious, but affixed to the top of the large sheet cake was a made-up, humorous newspaper article which told of Dan’s retirement at the Heartland Institute.

Jim Lakely now fills  Dan’s position at the Heartland Institute.

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