An era in the orthopedic industry ended Tuesday with the death of Biomet Inc. co-founder and Board of Directors member Dr. Dane Miller, but those who knew him say his legacy will live on.
In a statement released Tuesday evening, Jeff Binder, president and CEO of Biomet, wrote, “The Biomet family is profoundly saddened by the passing of Dane A. Miller, Ph.D.
“Dane was one of Biomet’s four founders and was our CEO from 1977 to 2006. It is impossible in one short statement to give justice to his impact on our company, on our industry, and on the communities where we operate – especially Warsaw and Winona Lake, Indiana. It is also impossible to describe adequately Dane’s impact on the lives of our team members and on the members of the orthopaedic community with whom he worked and developed friendships over many years.
“Dane Miller was a true pioneer both in regard to the development of new technologies and in the management and development of Biomet’s unique work environment and culture. Under his leadership Biomet grew from a company with $17,000 in revenues in 1978, our first fiscal year of operation, to one with greater than $2 billion in sales in 2006.
“On the technology front, Dane used his biomedical engineering background to drive advancements in biomaterials and implant design that helped patients around the world.
“On the cultural front, Dane thought of himself as an ‘environmental engineer,’ and he fostered an ownership culture where team members were empowered to make decisions, take reasonable risks and actively respond to the needs of our customers and their patients. Dane was one of industry’s first leaders to use the phrase ‘team member’ to describe his company’s employees. He once told me that the best description of Biomet’s culture was that of a ‘can-do family.’”
The statement concludes, “Dane’s influence will continue to be felt by our communities, our industry, and the people whose lives he touched. Our thoughts and prayers are with Dane’s family, and with those who loved him.”
Sources at Biomet said Miller had been battling leukemia.
According to his 2008 biography “The Maverick CEO: Dane Miller and The Story of Biomet” by Patrick Kavanaugh, Miller was born Feb. 7, 1946, in Ohio, to Ersie Emery and Ruth Shumaker Miller. Both his parents were educators, and Dane was one of four children. He and his wife, Mary Louise Schilke, met when they were in the eighth and ninth grades. After graduating high school in 1964, Dane started attending college at the General Motors Institute. On Feb. 22, 1966, after saving $2 out of every paycheck to buy Mary Louise an engagement ring, they were married in a small, family wedding.
At the University of Cincinnati, Miller built a hip-joint simulator on his own. In 1970, he arranged to personally witness the first hip implant ever performed in Cincinnati, according to the book.
In December 1972, Dane and his family moved to Warsaw so he could take a job at Zimmer. At 25, Miller was “responsible for the engineering support group in Zimmer's Research and Development Department and was also put in charge of the Wear Testing Lab,” the book notes.
Miller moved his family to California in 1976 to take a job at Cutter Biomedical Division, a then-new part of the Bayer Corp. It was right before the move that Miller and his friend Jerry Ferguson discussed starting up their own company.
Miller founded Biomet in 1977 with Niles Noblitt, Ferguson and M. Ray Harroff. In fall 1977, Biomet was officially incorporated.
Chapter 11 of the book recounts how Miller was forced out of Biomet as CEO, while Chapter 12 concludes with how Miller was able to get the company back with the help of his loyal friends and employees.
With their success, Dane and his family have given back to others and the community. According to the book, the Millers gave to the high school Dane attended in Springfield, Ohio, as well as to the Orthopedic Research and Educational Foundation and to their alma maters and Grace College, Winona Lake; and they partnered with Helps International and have spent more than $30 million of their own money on Winona Lake's restoration project.
Miller has also served as director of Kosciusko Community Hospital, as a member of the President’s Council for Grace College and Seminary and member of the University of Chicago Hospitals and Health System, and was an active volunteer with Combined Community Services.
In an email Tuesday afternoon, Kavanaugh wrote, “There has never been a man like Dane Miller. His love for his family, his friends, his company, his community and his country has been an inspiration for all of us. His passing leaves a huge hole in all of our hearts.”
Kent Adams, former Indiana senator and Winona Lake clerk-treasurer, said, “I first became acquainted with him years ago when I got into the political arena.”
Adams said Miller came on strong with support of his campaign, but Adams said he got to know Miller as a person.
“He was a very humble person,” Adams said. “He was a big benefactor to a lot of people. He never asked for any recognition. I found him to be a very humble man, a great guy. He didn’t wear a coat and tie. He had a feeling for other people.”
John Elliott, 1st Source Bank vice president and trust officer, said he first met Miller in the late 1970s.
“I was blessed with his friendship and counsel,” Elliott said. “As we assisted Dr. Ron Manahan in raising funds to restore the Westminster Hotel, I gained a sense that he and Mary Louise were about to transform the Village at Winona into what we enjoy today. He loved Winona Lake, the Biomet team members and most of all Mary Louise, his daughters and grandchildren.”
Elliott also said, “I will always remember our efforts to raise the funds and coordinate the annual Fourth of July fireworks at Winona Lake. There in his pontoon pulling the fireworks barges to the center of the lake was Dane. He wanted to make sure the barges were properly positioned to permit all to enjoy the celebration of the freedoms we enjoy in America.”
Elliott recalled Miller, late on the evening of the National Championship football game, calling him about the Ohio State Buckeyes despite his serious health issues.
“I and our community and state lost a true Icon. Dane, your friendship and generosity to our community made the Warsaw-Winona Lake area a special place to live, work and play,” Elliott said.
Former county official and Kosciusko County Republican Party chairwoman Jean Northenor said she probably knew Miller for 30 years or more.
She said she grew up an only child and because of that went through life adopting “little brothers and sisters.” Northenor would call Miller her little brother. Many people didn’t always know Miller could be ornery and fun, she said. When Northenor started calling Miller her little brother, he joked with her that she could call him her little brother if she reminded people she was much older than him.
Northenor said she worked with Miller on many things together. If one takes a look around the community, one can see the many things Miller was behind – from the Orthopaedic Capital Center at Grace College to Ivy Tech on U.S. 30 in Warsaw.
“All those things wouldn’t be there without Dane Miller,” Northenor said. She said he not only donated money, but also took a leadership role in getting something going.
Politically, Northenor said she worked with Miller on getting who they believed were the right people in office who could help get the community, state and country on the right track.
Miller met U.S. presidents, but Northenor said when you met him he was very humble. “He was a very powerful, powerful individual, but you wouldn’t know it talking to him.”
She later recalled, “Dane and Mary Louise had this wonderful scholarship program for the children of Biomet employees, all over the world. I served on the committee and there were hundreds of kids that got that scholarship.”
Northenor said, “He was a very sweet, sweet man.”
In 2012, The University of Cincinnati College of Engineering and Applied Science awarded Miller the Lifetime Achievement Award. This award honors a CEAS Distinguished Alumnus whose career reflects the college’s commitment to excellence, achievement and service.
His accomplishments include being named Entrepreneur of the Year (1989), being awarded the Small Business Administration National Entrepreneurial Success Award by President George Bush (1991), creating several new joint replacement systems and servicing more than one million patients annually.
As the Indiana Small Business Person of the Year in 1984, Miller met President Ronald Reagan at the White House during ceremonies marking National Small Business Week.
Indiana Governor Mike Pence released the following statement on Miller’s passing: “Today Indiana lost a giant in the passing of Dane Miller. Dane Miller, co-founder of Biomet in Warsaw, was one of our state’s most successful entrepreneurs, a pioneer in the orthopedic industry, and he will be deeply missed. Dane Miller was also a modest man who loved his family and never lost the common touch. Karen and I send our deepest sympathies to his beloved wife Mary Louise, his family, friends and all who admired this remarkable Hoosier.”
In 1992, Miller was chosen by the Indiana Chamber of Commerce as the Business Leader of the Year. Robert L. Koch II, Indiana Chamber chairman at that time, praised Miller for “leadership qualities both tangible and intangible. Tangible qualities such as business growth, productivity, facilities and a quality staff and executive team. Intangible qualities, including innovation, creativity, character, motivation and foresight.”
Brad Bishop, executive director of OrthoWorx, released the following statement: “Our thoughts and prayers go out to Dane’s family and those he touched. Dane’s contributions to orthopedics, and thus to the lives of millions of patients, are legendary. Just as significant was his leadership and commitment to his community. The evidence of his vision and his generosity, with Mary Louise and their foundation, can be found everywhere in our region. We are grateful for the advice and counsel he contributed to many of our initiatives and are committed to honoring his legacy of innovation and his dedication to making our region an even greater place to live and work.”
Warsaw Mayor Joe Thallemer said, “While we are saddened by the passing of Dr. Dane Miller, at the same time we are celebrating his life and his impact on Warsaw. He has enriched our community in ways too numerous to mention through his leadership and support. He will be missed.”
After learning of Miller’s passing at the Warsaw School Board meeting Tuesday, Warsaw Community Schools Superintendent Dr. David Hoffert said, “When we think about the Warsaw and Winona Lake community, Dane Miller’s name comes first and foremost to the front. We look at everything that he’s done, both for our school system and the entire community as a whole, to push forward really the opportunities for our next generation of kids that are coming through. He’ll leave a legacy that again will be immeasurable because through both his generation and the Dr. Dane and Mary Louise Foundation, again the legacy will just be long-standing and will impact students for generations to come.”
Miller was named 2000 Man of the Year at the 89th Annual Warsaw/Kosciusko County Chamber of Commerce dinner meeting. Suzie Light, Kosciusko County Community Foundation director and 2000 Woman of the Year, said, “He was one of the most kind, generous people I’ve ever met. He was generous with his time. He had a vision for not just orthopedics, but our community, for Winona Lake, for his family.”
The Dr. Dane and Mary Louise Miller Foundation is a private foundation, but Light said he was a generous donor to the community foundation.
She said when she looks around, she sees all the things the Miller Foundation and Dane personally have touched. He not only gave monetary donations, but Light said he also gave of his time like serving as a chef at the Combined Community Services Blues & BBQ.
“Take a drive through Winona Lake – there’s Dane’s fingerprints. Take look at the nonprofits in the community – there’s Dane’s fingerprints. What a loss. I can’t imagine how Mary Louise and his children must feel,” Light said. “Think how many people in our community started at Biomet when it was little. They have careers because he had a vision.”
She also said, “Dane was a man of very, very deep faith. I imagine when he is welcomed to heaven, it will be with a ‘Well done, good and faithful servant.’”
Mary Louise will carry on, Light said, and people will step up. “Dane was a good teacher that way. I would choose to think that with his legacy, it wouldn’t mean it’s the end of an era. The people who knew and cared for him will choose to carry on. Dane was a man of real vision.”
(Story By The Times Union)
Governor Mike Pence released this statement on the passing of Dr. Dane Miller: “Today Indiana lost a giant in the passing of Dane Miller. Dane Miller, Co-Founder of Biomet in Warsaw, was one of our state’s most successful entrepreneurs, a pioneer in the orthopedic industry, and he will be deeply missed. “Dane Miller was also a modest man who loved his family and never lost the common touch. Karen and I send our deepest sympathies to his beloved wife Mary Louise, his family, friends and all who admired this remarkable Hoosier.”