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It was a long time coming – over 40 years – for Virtua’s CEO Rich Miller, who finally walked with a graduating class at his alma mater, Mount St. Mary’s University in Maryland, this past spring. Miller missed his graduation because he was in a coma after a car accident, and few knew if he would survive. So this walk was especially momentous, and add to that: Miller was about to give the ceremony’s commencement address.

“Here I was, 43 years later, walking for the first time,” says Miller. “I came full circle. It was super thrilling.”

In 1974, Miller missed graduation when he was involved in a serious late-night automobile accident. “I had a job as a waiter at a local restaurant, and I was driving home after closing. I was in my ’62 Volkswagen Bug, and I fell asleep.”

Miller’s car hit a cement bridge, and it flipped. He was ejected from the driver’s seat and landed trapped under the Volkswagen. He lay there for three hours until a truck driver passed.

“I never resigned myself to dying, but it was as close as you can get,” Miller says. “And I’ve been blessed every day since.”

Miller told the audience of new grads and their families about his experiences that fateful night, and what he’s accomplished in the 22 years he’s served at Virtua. He also offered 10 leadership tips, including “Be the same person you are at work, as you are at home,” and “There will be great days and there will be bad days. Stay even keel.”

“When I was done, everyone stood up. I got tears in my eyes,” Miller adds. “People told me it was the best they’ve ever heard. I was proud I could reach people on a different level. It’s something I’ll never forget for the rest of my life.”

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