Watermark’s Most Remarkable People 2017: Barry Miller, Orlando attorney and founder of The 49 Fund

By : David Lee, writer/director of O-Town: Voices from Orlando
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David Lee

In the wake of the Pulse Nightclub shooting, local attorney, entrepreneur and CEO of The Closing Agent, Barry Miller wondered “What about the kids?” He was concerned about the future of the children of the victims of the attack.

We sat outside of his apartment at Lake Eola in the summer of 2016 and he said to me, “So many of the victims of the Pulse incident were parents of small children. Some of the survivors are barely out of high school. Who is going to take care of them? Their future? Their education?” Thus began the idea that became my friend Mr. Miller’s very own brainchild, The 49 Fund, an endowed scholarship administered by The Central Florida Foundation (CFF). This scholarship is offered to LGBTQ students in Central Florida with special consideration to be provided to survivors of the Pulse tragedy or to immediate family members of those whose lives were lost in the tragedy.

This past June, at an event at City Hall, Miller, Mayor Buddy Dyer and City Commissioner Patty Sheehan presented nine students with the first round of scholarships in the amount of $4,900 each. Each recipient of the scholarships had to apply with a written essay demonstrating their commitment to the LGBTQ community, transcripts, letters of recommendation, demonstration of financial need and the acceptance letter from the college they would be attending.

At the Orlando International Fringe Festival this last May, it was an easy decision for the company of actors from my interview based play “O-TOWN Voices from Orlando” to have our profits donated in-kind to The 49 Fund which helped get one of the last scholarships for the year in place. Clark Levi, a young local Orlando Theatre artist and one of my former students was one of the people interviewed for “O-Town.” He also happened to be one of the first recipients of the scholarship. He recently messaged me, “To me, the scholarship gave me a feeling of inclusion in the community. People in Central Florida support me and put legitimacy behind my education, artistic endeavors and LGBT activism.”

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