Charles D. Miller, who served as chairman and chief executive officer of Avery Dennison from 1977 to 1998, died at his home in Pasadena, CA, USA, on November 23 due to complications from emphysema. He was 83.
“Chuck Miller’s impact on Avery Dennison was immeasurable,” says Dean A. Scarborough, Avery Dennison chairman, president and CEO. “Every aspect of our business, from vision to strategy to execution to culture, has been shaped for the better by his passion and imagination. Numerous organizations in Southern California benefited from his tireless and wide-ranging philanthropic leadership over the past four decades. I will miss him as a leader, a mentor and a friend.”
Miller began his 47-year association with Avery Dennison in 1964 when he joined the Avery Products Corporation, the precursor of Avery Dennison. Over the next 10 years, he held a series of operating and executive roles in the US and Europe and was named president and chief operating officer in 1976. In 1977, he was elected CEO, and chairman of the board in 1983. He served as CEO for 21 years, as chairman of the board for 17 years, and as a member of the board of directors for more than 30 years. He continued to serve the company as a director emeritus until his death.
Under Miller’s leadership, Avery Dennison grew significantly, with annual net sales increasing during his tenure as CEO from $423 million to $3.3 billion in 1998. Investing in research and development to introduce innovative products, the company established itself as a leader in pressure sensitive materials and finished labels. Miller also led the company into other lines of business, the most prominent of which was office products. Through a series of acquisitions culminating with the 1990 merger with Dennison Manufacturing Company, Miller established the Avery brand and the company as a global office products leader as well.
Recognizing the company’s large opportunities outside the United States – among his earliest actions as CEO was renaming the company Avery International – Miller led a vigorous global expansion effort. He expanded operations and sales in Europe, South America and Asia. He established the company’s first manufacturing operations in China in 1994 and founded the Avery Dennison Label Converting College near Shanghai to train local printers.
Miller served in key business and civic leadership roles throughout his life. He served as chairman of the board of the Los Angeles Area Chamber of Commerce and the Los Angeles Business Advisors. He also served as director and non-executive chairman of Nationwide Health Properties Inc. At various times in his career, he was a director of companies including Air Group, Great Western Financial Corporation, Korn/Ferry International, Mellon West, Pacific Mutual Life Insurance Company, Petrolane and Edison International. He remained an active businessman after retiring from Avery Dennison, owning and operating a variety of businesses, including real estate investments, the noted restaurant Koshu, and a wine company in Wyoming.
From 1995 to 2001, he served as chairman of the board of United Way of Greater Los Angeles. When the economic downturn hit and community needs became severe, he and business leader Peter Mullin co-created the Mullin-Miller Million Dollar Match Fund to encourage giving to United Way's Creating Pathways out of Poverty plan. He supported a wide range of medical institutions, including the Operation Walk, which he personally nurtured from a local into an international organization that provides total hip and knee replacements for impoverished children and adults in underdeveloped countries.
An avid supporter of athletics, Miller was one of the first members of the organizing committee that brought the 1984 Olympic Games to Los Angeles. After the games, the committee’s surplus funds were used to establish the Amateur Athletic Foundation of Los Angeles, which continues today as the LA84 Foundation supporting youth sports. He also played a key role in forming the Los Angeles Sports Council, one of the nation’s leading civic sports support organizations, and provided extensive support to the Los Angeles area and national chapters of U.S. Lacrosse. At the time of his death, he was a member of the executive board of the Rose Bowl Legacy Campaign for the renovation and preservation of the Rose Bowl. He was also a member of the advisory board of the Autry Museum of Western Heritage and a trustee of Southern California Public Radio.
Miller was also devoted to promoting liberal arts education. He served as a university trustee and presidential counselor of Johns Hopkins University, his alma mater. In 2004, he endowed the Charles D. Miller Professorship in the humanities at the University’s Zanvyl Krieger School of Arts and Sciences. Consistent with Miller’s belief in Asia’s pivotal role in a global economy, the inaugural Miller Professor specializes in East Asian Studies.
He also created the university’s Vision Fund, a scholarship program for arts and sciences undergraduates and for summer students of the Johns Hopkins Center for Talented Youth. In 1998, he received the University’s Heritage Award in recognition of his outstanding service to Johns Hopkins. Miller also had a long involvement with Occidental College in Los Angeles, serving as a trustee from 1977 to 1998 and continuing thereafter as a trustee emeritus. He personally funded its women’s varsity lacrosse program, which today is a national power.
Miller was born in Hartford, CT, USA, and grew up in Old Greenwich, CT. He is survived by his wife of 29 years, Carolyn; their two daughters, Amanda Daly Miller and Candice Louise Miller; three daughters from his previous marriage, Katherine Ann Miller, Susie Cherrill Otten and Charlotte Juanita Miller; and grandchildren Laura, David, Eric and John Otten, and Harper, Juliet and Zander Branch.
Funeral services are private. A memorial service is planned for December 12 at 11 a.m. at The Langham Huntington, 1401 South Oak Knoll Avenue, Pasadena. A memorial website, www.CharlesDMiller.org, is now live.
Donations in Miller’s memory can be made to: Charles D. Miller Legacy Fund, United Way of Greater Los Angeles, 1150 South Olive St., Los Angeles, CA 90015 USA; and Charles D. Miller Rose Bowl Legacy Fund, 505 East Colorado Blvd., Suite 201, Pasadena, CA 91101 USA.