Floyd S. Trey Mills III clearly remembers the day he realized he wasn’t invincible.
Mills was 17 years old and played football, basketball and track. He had just spent a week at Palmetto Boys State, a leadership program for rising high school seniors, feeling terribly ill and thinking he had some kind of bug.
When he returned home, his aunt gave him a joking punch in the gut. The playful jab floored him literally.
Mills went to Lexington Medical Center in Columbia, where his mother, Patricia, was a nurse. He can vividly remember sitting in a waiting room and hearing her screams from down the hall after she saw the results of his blood tests.
Run it again! Run it again! she yelled.
Mills was diagnosed with acute lymphocytic leukemia, and he spent 17 days in the hospital undergoing chemotherapy in June of 1995. It didn’t take long before his family’s insurance company started denying his claims.
My bill was upward six figures at the hospital for 17 days of chemo and all that, he said. We had health insurance, and you’re wondering, ‘Why will they not pay anything? Why is my mom yelling on the phone with these people?’
Fast forward to the present, and Mills is still fighting those battles. After graduating from Clemson University (’00, BS Marketing) and eventually law school at Mercer, he is now a partner at Trammell & Mills Law Firm in Anderson, S.C. The firm works to protect the rights of injury victims, primarily against their insurance companies.
My family had to fight the insurance company to cover anything over $1,000 and that’s while you’re dying of cancer, he said. That’s not something anybody should have to deal with. I figured I’d love to slay the insurance dragon as much as I could.
While at Clemson, Mills was a student worker at IPTAY and became a Collegiate Club member in 1998. He has given to the IPTAY Annual Fund ever since, currently as a McFadden Donor, and says he plans to give more in the future.
In the meantime, Mills has found another way to make insurance companies work for him by making an endowment through the University Foundation on a life insurance policy he got when he first joined his law firm.
The endowment is through the Foundation, he said, but 50 percent is earmarked for IPTAY and then 50 percent is given to Tiger Brotherhood on the alumni side. On the gift-giving side, they can set you up from your will, from land assets to stock assets to life insurance assets. Any asset that comes from your wealth-building throughout your life can be transferred over at any point in time, that won’t even impact your family at the time, and it can move like a vehicle or a trust until such time as it would revert to the IPTAY planning.
These days, Mills is able to make a bold proclamation: Cancer is the best thing that ever happened to me. He says it gave him a sense of purpose in his life. And while Mills spent many years thinking he wouldn’t live nearly this long he turned 35 on April 24 and has had a clean bill of health since his freshman year at Clemson the experience has left him keenly aware of the need to take care of the things he loves after he is gone.
After ensuring his family is taken care of, another way he has done that is through the endowment of a life insurance policy to Clemson University and IPTAY.
You can do it through your 401k, 403, IRA, however you have it, but mine was through a life insurance policy, Mills said. I figured if I could get those people to pay out every bit of money even when I’m dead, I’ll just have a smile on my face as I’m taken to a higher power. It would just make me smile to know that those benefits that I was afforded and that would go to me, would come from an insurance company and go to the university.