Transformative Gift to Physics and Astronomy

December 16, 2021 Hub staff report

Bill Miller’s gift will support expanded research into emerging subfields of study and help attract promising young researchers

Donor to the Johns Hopkins Department of Physics and Astronomy William “Bill” Miller wears glasses, a striped shirt, red tie, and gray suit jacket.
William “Bill” Miller III

Legendary investor and philanthropist William H. “Bill” Miller III has made a lead gift of $50 million in a combined $75 million philanthropic effort to support Johns Hopkins University’s Department of Physics and Astronomy.

Miller’s $50 million commitment will fund endowed professorships, postdoctoral fellowships, and graduate research, and will provide ongoing support for research infrastructure. His gift also served as the impetus for two anonymous donors to support the department as well, expanding to $75 million the funding to advance key areas of physics research.

The gift will propel one of the nation’s most storied departments of physics to new heights — expanding research into emerging subfields of study and attracting promising young researchers, Johns Hopkins University President Ron Daniels said.

“The support Bill Miller has shown Johns Hopkins is historic,” Daniels said. “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. We are endlessly grateful for his generosity that is driving our scholars to explore everything from the human condition to our understanding of the universe and our place in it. A philanthropic investment of this magnitude will be a standard-bearer for how a robust physics and astronomy department can broaden its research, engage in collaborative exploration, and advance to the front lines of emerging areas.”

Miller is the founder and chairman of Miller Value Partners and formerly the longtime manager of the Legg Mason Capital Management Value Trust. He also serves on the Johns Hopkins University Board of Trustees.

“Physics seeks to understand reality at its most fundamental level. It is the bedrock on which the other sciences rest,” he said. “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.”

At the center of Miller’s gift is funding for young scientists. Support for these future leaders in physics and astronomy includes the creation of 10 prize postdoctoral fellowships and 10 endowed graduate research fellowships. The gift will also support the establishment of three endowed professorships, a cohort of senior and junior level faculty lines, and funding for research infrastructure such as laboratory equipment and instrumentation. In all, this new philanthropic support will enable the department to grow from its current 33 faculty to 46 over the next five years.

“The visionary research currently underway in our physics and astronomy department will be enhanced by this gift in vital ways that could potentially change our view of the universe,” said Chris Celenza, dean of the university’s Krieger School of Arts and Sciences, of which the Department of Physics and Astronomy is a part. “Mr. Miller’s extraordinary gift will enrich the scholarly and collaborative pursuits of our faculty and students for decades to come.”

In recognition of Miller’s gift, the department will be renamed the William H. Miller III Department of Physics and Astronomy. The department currently carries an honorific naming in recognition of the department’s first chair, Henry A. Rowland, who was known as one of the most significant physicists of the 19th century for his work in electricity, heat, and astronomical spectroscopy. The department chair’s position will now be named for Dr. Rowland, and the university will seek additional opportunities to honor his legacy.

Read the full story on The Hub.

Topics: Alumni, Faculty and Staff, Krieger School of Arts and Sciences, Fuel Discovery, Support Scholars