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Stetson Receives $2 Million Surprise

$2Mil ck presentationMilitary couple from St. Augustine leaves gift to endow academic scholarship –

In February, 2013, Kate Pearce, assistant vice president of university relations at Stetson University, received a most welcomed telephone call. Attorney Melvin D. Stack, a partner in the Daytona Beach law firm of Every, Stack and Upchurch, and a 1979 Stetson College of Law alumnus, was calling with the delightful news that two of his clients had remembered Stetson in a trust which would endow a scholarship for students. The anticipated amount was $2 million. (Pictured, l to r: Stetson President Wendy B. Libby, Vice President for University Relations Carol Julian, and Melvin Stack ’79, partner in Every, Stack and Upchurch Law Firm.)

What made this unusual was that this couple, Lt. Colonel Jesse and Mrs. Ruth Miles, who had lived in St. Augustine in the latter years of their lives, had not attended Stetson University, nor had anyone in their family. When preparing their estate plan, they asked Mr. Stack to recommend worthy universities to leave this generous gift, as both felt strongly about education. “They chose Stetson because they were looking for a university with high academic standards and a great reputation,” Stack explained.

Mr. Miles was born in Tennessee, joined the United States Army and was stationed in Germany during World War II. It was there he met Ruth ­­­­Brueggeman of Braunschweig Germany, who accompanied him back to the United States after the war and, on Christmas Eve 1947, the couple were married in Tennessee.

Mr. Miles, who made the military his life-long career, rose to the rank of Lt. Colonel. Both he and Mrs. Miles had obtained their undergraduate college degrees. Later they would raise a son, Allen, and enjoy two grandchildren, Emily and Alex, who are currently attending college now.

Since their son pre-deceased them, it was their intention to share their estate, obtained through frugal living and outstanding investments within the stock market, with both their grandchildren and Stetson University. Mrs. Miles carried on their wishes after her husband’s death in July, 2010, and Mr. Stack administered their will upon her death in January, 2013.

“It was an honor to help contribute to my alma mater in this manner. I felt fortunate that I could attend Stetson Law School and glad that others will be able to achieve their dreams as a result of my being a small part of this process,” said Attorney Stack, who has been in private practice, primarily as an estates and trusts lawyer for nearly 24 years. After graduating law school, he spent the first 10 years of his career in the State Attorney’s office and as the lawyer for the Sheriff of Volusia County.

In a ceremony on Friday, Jan. 24, 2014, Attorney Stack presented Dr. Wendy Libby, president of Stetson University, with a check for $2 million from the estate of Lt. Colonel Jesse and Mrs. Ruth Miles.

“This very generous gift from Mr. and Mrs. Miles will help Stetson University continue its legacy of providing scholarship assistance to students who are eager for our kind of rigorous, challenging academic program. The Miles Endowment will be a perpetual resource to support our students as they learn, grow and prepare to lead lives of significance. I am grateful to Lt. Colonel Miles and Mrs. Miles for their thoughtfulness and to Mr. Stack, a Stetson University College of Law graduate, for his leadership in assisting them with making their charitable bequest and, subsequently, in the administration of this estate,” said President Libby. 

This endowed scholarship will be part of a permanent fund which will be available to students who maintain a “B” average or above.

“By remembering Stetson in their estate plan, the Miles have made a wonderful investment in the lives of students who might not otherwise be able to attend Stetson,” said Ms. Pearce. “I only wish we had known about their generosity beforehand so we could have properly thanked them.”

 by Mary M. McCambridge