Fort Wayne, IN

The richest woman in Fort Wayne is giving away millions

Ash Jurberg
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Recently I have been writing articles on the wealthiest people in major cities across the United States and what they are doing with their wealth to support their local community. Readers like to hear about good news stories in their local cities.

Today I wanted to take a look at the richest woman in Fort Wayne, Indiana, and what she is doing with her vast fortune.

The richest woman in Fort Wayne

The richest woman in Fort Wayne is Patrica Miller. According to Forbes, she has a net worth of $325 million.

In 1975, Miller had just moved to a new area in the Fort Wayne neighborhood and wanted to introduce herself to her neighbor, Barbara Bradley Baekgaard. The two hit it off, becoming friends and later business partners.

While traveling together several years later, they noticed that there were no suitable luggage options for females- and so they decided to create their own.

With a $250 contribution from both ladies, they began making colorful handbags in Baekgaard's basement in Fort Wayne and, in 1982, launched their business- Vera Bradley.

The business was an instant success, and in 2010 the company went public.

The listing made Patricia Miller very wealthy. And she has been very generous in giving back to the community.


When the first sales representative of Vera Bradley succumbed to breast cancer, the duo created a philanthropic mission for the company to find a cure for breast cancer. T

This started in 1993 with the Vera Bradley Classic, a golf and tennis tournament for women in Fort Wayne that raised funds for the American Cancer Society.

In 1998, Miller and Baekgaards set up the Vera Bradley Foundation for Breast Cancer Research based in Fort Wayne. Based at the Indiana University School of Medicine, it works with researchers and leads trials across the United States.

Since its inception, the foundation has donated $37.5 million to support critical research.

In addition to the huge monetary contributions she has made, Miller is very giving of her time to local organizations.

Miller has served as director and now honorary director of the IU Foundation and was co-chair of the IUPUI Impact Campaign and chair of the School of Medicine's campaign, helping raise funds. She is also a founding member of the Women's Philanthropy Council. In addition, Miller has served as a board member for more than 15 non-profit organizations.

In 2005, Miller took a leave of absence from Vera Bradey to assist former Governor Mitch Daniels and serve as the state's first-ever Secretary of Commerce and CEO of the newly created Indiana Economic Development Corporation.

Readers, what do you think of Patrica Miller's story? And what other Fort Wayne organizations would you like to see her support?

Please leave your comments below.

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