Philosophy Matters

By Dennis O'Shea

photo of Bill Miller

Legendary investor William H. “Bill” Miller III has committed a record $75 million to the Krieger School’s Department of Philosophy to broaden and intensify faculty research, graduate student support, and undergraduate study of philosophical thought.

Miller, founder and chairman of Miller Value Partners and formerly the longtime, highly successful manager of the Legg Mason Capital Management Value Trust, is himself a former Johns Hopkins philosophy graduate student.

“I attribute much of my business success to the analytical training and habits of mind that were developed when I was a graduate student at Johns Hopkins,” says Miller, who is best known for beating the Standard & Poor’s 500 with his Legg Mason fund for a record 15 consecutive years, from 1991 to 2005.

“I am delighted to be able to show my gratitude by helping to move the department to its rightful place among the best in the country,” he says.

Ronald J. Daniels, president of Johns Hopkins University, says Miller’s aim—and the university’s—is to set a new standard for excellence in philosophy and promote powerful, change-making collaboration between philosophers and other scholars.

“Philosophy matters,” Daniels says. “Philosophy defines what it is to be human, to lead lives that are meaningful, and to create societies that are just and humane. The contemporary challenges of the genomics revolution, the rise of artificial intelligence, the growth in income inequality, social and political fragmentation, and our capacity for devastating war all invite philosophical perspective. Bill Miller’s unprecedented commitment to our Department of Philosophy underscores the continuing vitality and relevance of the humanities.”

The university is recognizing Miller’s generosity by renaming the department in his honor.

“Bill’s dual perspective as a business leader and an intellectually curious lifelong student of philosophy is so important,” says Beverly Wendland, dean of the Krieger School. “Our talented faculty and the students who will study in the William H. Miller Department of Philosophy for generations to come will always be grateful, as I am, for Bill’s confidence in Johns Hopkins.”

Miller’s gift will help grow the department within 10 years to 22 full-time faculty members from its current 13. It will create an endowed professorship for the chair of the department, eight other endowed professorships,and endowed support for junior faculty members.

The gift will add $10 million to endowed support for philosophy graduate students and postdoctoral fellows. The university also aims to attract more undergraduates to the study of philosophy, in part through new introductory courses and additional interdisciplinary tracks.

“The study of philosophy has been central to Johns Hopkins from the university’s beginning in 1876,” says Richard Bett, professor and chair of the department. “Bill Miller knows that every student, no matter their major or intended career, can benefit from philosophical study.”