Daring rope courses, horseback riding and beautiful scenery is what David Miller, a Texas Tech alumnus, experiences at his job every day. He runs the Spirit Ranch, located just north of Lubbock.
A graduate of Monterey High School, Miller has lived in Lubbock since the age of 10. He went to the business school at Tech and pledged Phi Delta Theta.
Miller has served Lubbock in many different capacities, most recently as mayor and a chairman of the Lubbock Chamber of Commerce. He also has emceed the Distinguished Alumni Awards Banquet.
“The most emotional one I ever got to emcee was Rick Husband, the astronaut who graduated from Amarillo High School and graduated from Tech. He went down with the Challenger. His wife and kids were there.”
Miller’s wife, Jayne Ann Miller, is a supportive partner for David Miller at the Spirit Ranch. She also serves as the adviser for Chi Omega sorority at Tech. They met in their late years of college and were still dating when he joined the Miller family business.
After working for his family, he had the opportunity to bring The Med Group, from Chicago, to the Lubbock area. The Med Group was a buying cooperative that combined buying power of different types of medical companies.
“We started with 27 locations in 1986, but when we sold it in April of 2006, we had over 800 locations,” David Miller said. “About five years before I left there and started Spirit Ranch, I started having this wrestling match, either with myself or with God, one of the two; I was supposed to leave. I was supposed to do something different. I didn’t know what; I knew it was more. I knew it was challenging, but I loved what I did, and I didn’t want to leave.”
David Miller’s dream was to combine his powers of speaking, building teams and strategic planning to spread God’s word.
“Spirit Ranch was truly a dream of five or six years ago of David. His heart is really for the corporate world, and his idea was to do a leadership development organization that would really help the corporate world. His idea was to try to work with companies, to make employees work together and succeed as an organization and in turn help their profits,” Jayne Ann Miller said.
David Miller said the ranch is based on Christian principles but is not “churchy.” The important part was teaching other people the principles of teamwork and service to improve relationships in the workplace.
“I read a book called ‘Wild At Heart,’ by John Eldridge; it’s about how all of us, either as little boys and girls growing up or as young adults or sometime in life, we get wounded,” David Miller said. “This man was talking about how he finally learned to ask the question, not what the world needs, but what makes me fully alive, because frankly, what the world needs is people that are fully alive.”
David Miller decided the best way to accomplish his new goal was to find a location so people could get out of their comfort zones and realize the depth and truth of the creator.
“Well, if you hadn’t noticed, Lubbock doesn’t have the Rocky Mountains, the seashore of Corpus Christi or the piney woods of East Texas; we’ve got Cowboyism,” he said. “So I said ‘OK, I think we need a ranch that will attract people. Wherever that place is, we will have retreats and seminars and speakers and events that will really drive people closer to their creator.’”
That place ended up being Spirit Ranch. The first guest visited in January five years ago, and since then over 7,000 people have gone through the team-leadership program. The ranch is supported by grants and donations, events like the 51 weddings that took place there in 2010, and consulting.
Mark Persall, COO of Spirit Ranch, first began working for the ranch as an outside consultant before developing a partnership agreement in May 2010. He emphasized the importance of the ranch’s vision of drawing people closer to Christ.
“We think to do that, not only exposing them to the beauty of the property, but also by giving each guest excellent service, and our commitment is, whether in word or deed, that as we are serving our guest, we are rendering service under God,” Persall said.
Persall said that his relationship with David Miller is one of “iron sharpening iron,” and as a team, their disagreements force them both to think more creatively.
“David genuinely believes that all people can come alive if they are just given the opportunity to do so, and David believes in people, and he wants people to believe in themselves,” Persall said.