American investor Bill Miller has pledged to donate $75 million (£55 million) to Johns Hopkins University’s philosophy department to help it build research, provide graduate student support and attract more undergraduates.
The gift is the biggest donation Johns Hopkins has received for any department in the humanities. It is also believed to be the largest donation ever made to a university philosophy programme, the institution said.
Mr Miller, founder and chairman of investment management firm Miller Value Partners and former manager of the Legg Mason Capital Management Value Trust, is an alumnus of the university’s philosophy PhD programme.
The donation 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 also 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, such as the existing minor in bioethics.
“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,” Mr Miller said.
“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.”
Ronald J. Daniels, president of Johns Hopkins, said that the aim is to set a new standard for excellence in philosophy and promote collaboration between philosophers and other scholars.
“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,” Professor Daniels said.
“Bill Miller’s unprecedented commitment to our department of philosophy underscores the continuing vitality and relevance of the humanities.”