Baltimore investor William H. “Bill” Miller has made a $50 million gift to the Physics and Astronomy Department at Johns Hopkins University. Miller’s gift has inspired two other anonymous donors to add $25 million, bringing the total new investment in the department to $75 million. According to a Hopkins spokesperson, the two anonymous gifts were relatively equal in size.
The university’s announcement of the new gifts indicated they will be used to fund endowed professorships, postdoctoral fellowships, and graduate research. They will also enable the department to build its research infrastructure.
Miller’s gift was “historic” in the words of Johns Hopkins University President Ron Daniels. “Four years ago, Mr. Miller committed what is believed to be the largest ever gift to a university philosophy program, and now he has made an equally impressive gift to the study of physics and astronomy,“ Daniels said.
Miller’s gift will focus on supporting young scientists. It includes funding of 10 postdoctoral fellowships and 10 endowed graduate research fellowships. It will also support the creation of three endowed professorships, establish several senior and junior level faculty positions, and provide funding for laboratory equipment and instrumentation. In all, Johns Hopkins projected that the total gift would enable the department to grow from its current 33 faculty to 46 over the next five years. Hiring for the new faculty is scheduled to begin immediately.
For his part, Mr. Miller described physics as “the bedrock on which the other sciences rest,” adding, “I am delighted to be able to make a gift to Johns Hopkins physics that will enable it to add new resources and continue to build on its distinguished history.”
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Johns Hopkins’ Department of Physics and Astronomy has a celebrated history, dating to 1876, when, according to the university, it became the first physics department in the United States dedicated to research. In 1981, NASA selected Johns Hopkins to be the site for the Space Telescope Science Institute, a decision that helped the department develop into one of the nation’s leading academic astronomy centers. Included among its faculty members are two Nobel laureates as well as winners of such prestigious awards as the Gruber Cosmology Prize, the Simons Investigator Award, and a McArthur Fellowship.
The department’s current strengths are in astronomy, condensed matter physics, and particle physics, with individual faculty programs recognized for leadership in topics such as astrophysics, cosmology, big data, quantum materials, extra-galactic astronomy, particle-theory models, and dark matter detection.
To recognize Miller’s gift, the university will rename the department the “William H. Miller III Department of Physics and Astronomy,” replacing its current designation as the “Henry A. Rowland Department of Physics and Astonomy,” named after its first chair, Henry A. Rowland, who also served as the first president of the American Physical Society. The university said it would name the department chair’s position in honor of Dr. Rowland, as it sought “additional opportunities to honor his legacy.”
Bill Miller is the founder and chairman of Miller Value Partners, located in Baltimore, Maryland. Prior to Miller Value Partners, Miller served as the chairman and chief investment officer of Legg Mason Capital Management as well as the principal portfolio manager of the Legg Mason Capital Management Value Trust.
A member of the Johns Hopkins University board of trustees, Miller made a $75 million gift to Johns Hopkins’ Department of Philosophy in 2018, a donation believed to be the largest gift ever to a university philosophy program.