Over the course of a long career in radio, I have written thousands of news stories and commentaries. But what I wrote earlier this week was perhaps the most surreal. It was the press release from West Virginia Radio Corporation that our president and CEO Dale Miller is retiring.
Dale is 69 and, as he said in an email to our employees, “Everything in life has a beginning, middle and end. The real art is to know when that end is upon us.”
Dale’s choice of the word “art” was interesting; During his 44 years heading up our company, Dale has always had the heart and eye of an artist. He has been a visionary who imagined great things for our company, then put himself and those around him to work making them happen.
He, along with company owner John Raese, built our business from two Morgantown radio stations in 1977 to 30 stations today, along with the MetroNews Radio Network and the video production company Pikewood Creative. We have grown from a handful of employees to over 200.
Along the way Dale inspired his employees to become artists themselves, to constantly strive for excellence. Many people in our company have achieved more than they thought possible because of Dale’s motivation and leadership.
We have sometimes fallen short of Dale’s lofty goals, and there has been the occasional spectacular failure. But Dale has worked tirelessly to put members of his team in a position where they could go home at the end of the day and say, “I’m proud of what I did.”
Dale liked to say he could excuse commission, but not omission. He could not abide his people doing nothing, but if you were doing something, if you were making your best effort, if you were trying to make something good happen, then Dale gave you latitude.
Over the years, the most common refrains in our workplace have sounded like this: “Ask Dale.” “What does Dale think?” Or the occasional “I hope Dale doesn’t find out!”
That wasn’t because we were necessarily afraid of Dale—although he could be intimidating—but rather because Dale Miller has always been at the center of our working world. The ideas, the praise, the criticism, all flowed through him.
But Dale was not just a thought leader. He got his hands dirty. Dale was just as comfortable wiring a broadcast board or producing a football broadcast as meeting with executives in the board room.
On a personal note, Dale Miller has been my friend and mentor for over four decades. He generously says we have been “partners” in building this company. That is flattering, but the truth is that everything of importance I learned about broadcasting I learned from him.
That is why writing the release about his retirement felt so strange. You know you really enjoy your work and the people you work with when you think it will go on forever. Dale would always be here.
But that is not how it works, of course. Dale has more than earned his retirement. Radio has a lot of moving parts and, as a manager who immersed himself in every detail, Dale worked harder than anyone to keep us not just operational, but also in position to strive for excellence.
He deserves some “me” time. Dale is a devoted family man. He and his wife Tammy have five children and nine grandchildren, so that should keep him occupied and satisfied.
As for our company? We will be fine. John Raese is committed to continuing Dale’s legacy, and we have many talented and professional people in our company who have learned from Dale over the years.
But we will miss Dale Miller… dearly. He brought the art of broadcasting into the lives of the many people he touched and showed us the possibilities.