Bill Miller. Photo via Hopkins Hub.

The Hopkins philosophy program is getting a massive boost from a famous investor who attributes his success on Wall Street to his philosophy education at the Baltimore university.

Bill Miller, best known for managing Baltimore firm Legg Mason’s Capital Management Value Trust that beat the S&P 500 Index for a record 15 years straight, will be giving $75 million to the Johns Hopkins University philosophy department. A release from the university said the gift is believed to be a record donation for a university philosophy department, and the largest ever given to any Hopkins humanities department.

“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,” Miller said in a statement. “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.”

Hopkins president Ronald J. Daniels said in a statement that Miller’s donation “underscores the continuing vitality and relevance of the humanities.”

Miller enrolled in the Hopkins philosophy Ph.D program after serving in the Vietnam War. He went on to work as treasurer for the J.E. Baker Company in York become becoming a securities analyst for Legg Mason in 1981. He gained fame as a bullish investor in tech and financial stocks, generating returns higher than the S&P 500 Index from 1991 to 2005. The fund suffered huge losses from 2007 to 2011, and Miller has since stepped away and founded his own firm, Miller Value Partners, based here in Baltimore.

Humanities at Hopkins are in considerable flux, even without the announcement of Miller’s massive donation. On Jan. 1, the university renamed its interdisciplinary grad-centric Humanities Center to the Department of Comparative Thought and Literature, a change that followed a months-long battle over the school’s initial plans to shutter the center in 2016.

Just before the back-and-forth began over the Humanities Center’s future, the university used a $10 million gift to establish the Alexander Grass Humanities Institute, which serves as “a focal point for the 10 world-renowned humanities departments at Johns Hopkins,” according to its website. The institute’s creation left school administrators pondering how to deal with having two interdisciplinary entities serving the humanities, which ultimately led them to change the Humanities Center’s name.

The university also received $745,000 from the Mellon Foundation last year to collaborate with the Community College of Baltimore County on humanities curricula.

Miller’s $75 million donation will expand Hopkins’ philosophy department, which is housed within the Krieger School of Arts and Sciences. The faculty size will increase from 13 to 22 full-timers over the next 10 years, and the department will create endowed department chair and professorship positions, and offer new support for junior faculty, grad students and post-doctoral fellows.

The philosophy department will also now bear Miller’s name.

“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,” Krieger School dean Beverly Wendland said in a statement.

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Ethan McLeod

Ethan McLeod is a freelance reporter in Baltimore. He previously worked as an editor for the Baltimore Business Journal and Baltimore Fishbowl. His work has appeared in Bloomberg CityLab, Next City and...