Ronald A. Autrey, who helped grow Miller Electric Co. from a 650-employee business with $80 million in revenue to a 1,650-employee, $311 million business within five years of taking over as president in 2003, has been named Jacksonville University’s Distinguished Alumni for 2012.
The award will be presented at the free President’s Reception at 5:30 p.m. Friday, Sept. 28, at the JU Davis College of Business, as part of JU Homecoming Weekend events. Autrey will also be honored at halftime of the Dolphins’ football game against Marist College at D.B. Milne Field the next day.
A stalwart JU supporter now in his fourth and final year as chairman of its Board of Trustees, Autrey has helped recruit a bevy of esteemed executives to the panel and played a key role in developing a far-reaching strategic plan to take the University to the next level. He is also chair of the Presidential Search Committee looking for a successor to JU President Kerry Romesburg, who retires in summer 2013.
“Ron’s ability to know when it’s time to take a breath and when it’s time to take bold action has served this institution well,” Romesburg said. “I’m not sure we could have had a steadier hand on the keel during the past several years of daunting challenges and magnificent opportunities.”
Autrey, who came back to JU to finish his business degree in 2001, has been with Miller Electric since his start in the industry in 1974, and has worked in every market area of the company. As president since 2003, he reorganized the company from a top-down structure to one with six empowered divisions in 10 offices and 20 states — even using JU’s business faculty to teach SWOT (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats) analysis to his management team.
Being named a JU Distinguished Alumni is one of many honors Autrey has received, but one he said he holds in particularly high regard.
“Coming back to JU late in life to learn good business strategy and policy was a key element in my business success,” he said. “To later become a JU Trustee and Chairman of the Board was a very special opportunity for me. To now receive the Distinguished Alumni Award is a capstone for my volunteer work for Jacksonville University and the Jacksonville community.”
Among his many awards and posts, Autrey, past president of the Master Electrician’s Association, was twice named “Man of the Year.” He is a past president and chairman of the Professional & Businessmen’s Association; past Governor of the North Florida Chapter of the National Electrical Contractor’s Association; past chair and founding member of NECA’s Political Leadership Council in Washington, D.C.; and national vice president-at-large for NECA’s Large Contractor Group.
In 2007 he received the National McGraw Award for outstanding service to the Electrical industry. He was also named to the Academy of Fellows of the National Electrical Contractor’s Association and has received NECA’s Southeastern U.S. District Leadership Award.
Autrey’s activities don’t stop there. In the community, he’s active in the Rotary Club of Jacksonville, Boy Scouts of America North Florida Executive Advisory Board, MS Society Advisory Board and JCCI’s Council of Stewards. He served on the First Coast Manufacturer’s Association Board and Executive Committee of Cornerstone Jacksonville, and was 2008 chairman of the Board of Directors of the Jacksonville Regional Chamber of Commerce.
To this day, after chairing the 2007 Northeast Florida United Way Campaign, that year’s campaign total of $26.5 million is Jacksonville’s highest on record.
Autrey also sits on the Dean’s Advisory Council for the University of North Florida’s College of Construction and Engineering, was named Man Of The Year by the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office in 2010, received the Ultimate CEO Award and is a member of Florida’s Economic Council Hall of Fame. He is a member of the Cummer Museum of Art & Garden’s Ponce De Leon Society and United Way’s Alexis de Tocqueville Society. He maintains 32nd degree Masonic membership in Morocco Temple, Scottish Rite, Royal Order of Jesters, and Riverside Lodge in Jacksonville.
Autrey and his wife, Hilah, and his company have generously supported JU with myriad gifts, including the state-of-the-art Autrey Track and Field Complex.
“Building a first-class track for a championship-caliber track team desperately in need of one is perhaps what I am most proud of from a JU donor perspective,” he said.
In addition to all of the direct financial contributions he has made, Autrey has made his Jacksonville Jaguars box and his boat available for JU events.
“When I stand at the podium during JU’s graduation ceremonies, I can see the reason that we place a high value on education,” he said. “Our graduates become the living fabric of their communities, and together, they make up the body and spirit of our great nation. Today’s quality of life and the future of our country are dependent on the success of great institutions like Jacksonville University.”
The Distinguished Alumni Award is given to a JU graduate demonstrating significant professional accomplishments, community and philanthropic efforts and continued support of JU. Jacksonville Mayor Alvin Brown ‘85/’89 was the 2011 recipient.