Remembering Jimmy Miller on His 100th Birthday
James F. “Jimmy” Miller, renowned investor and philanthropist, would have been 100 years old on February 20. Although he didn’t live to see that milestone (he died June 3, 2004), he left behind a living legacy of Lewis & Clark students, faculty, and alumni who continue to benefit from his generosity.
Miller became a part of the Lewis & Clark family through his own. Jimmy’s sister, Dorothy Miller Haldors, was married to Charles Haldors, who worked at Lewis & Clark first as the bookstore manager and later as business manager and controller in the 1950s and early 1960s.
“My parents encouraged Jimmy to become involved at the College,” says Steve Haldors ’58, Dorothy and Charles’ son. “Jimmy always regretted never having finished college himself, and he believed in what Lewis & Clark was doing. He saw the value of a liberal arts education.”
Haldors says that, over the years, Miller also admired the vision of Lewis & Clark’s presidents, including Morgan Odell, John Howard, and Michael Mooney. “Jimmy could see the results of his generosity,” says Haldors, “and that was important to him.”
Miller, a life trustee, was one of the College’s most generous benefactors. After making his initial gift of $25 to Lewis & Clark in 1945, he donated approximately $20 million to the College over the next five decades. In addition to supporting the annual fund, he played a key role in creating the Morgan S. Odell Professorship in the Humanities, the James F. Miller Professorship in the Humanities, the James F. Miller Center for the Humanities, and the new John R. Howard Hall.
But according to Haldors, “it was the scholarships that really moved him.” During his lifetime, Miller established two endowed scholarship funds and initiated an annual grant program at Lewis & Clark that provides substantial financial assistance to about 150 students each year (see chart to the right). The grant program, in particular, has helped the College raise the academic profile of its incoming students.
Recipients of Miller money come from a variety of backgrounds: many have been first-generation college students, others have grown up in rural areas with limited educational opportunities, and still others have attended overcrowded urban schools. But all of them have shared the traits of high academic achievement and financial need.
Jules Kopel-Bailey ’01, recipient of a Miller Scholarship, had the opportunity to meet Miller in person at a Lewis & Clark Scholarship Luncheon. “I was thoroughly impressed by him,” says Kopel-Bailey. “He was super friendly and very encouraging. He wanted to help others achieve success more easily than he had.”
Kopel-Bailey says the Miller scholarship, along with other financial aid, made a real difference in his ability to attend Lewis & Clark. “My parents were unemployed off and on while I was in college, so I definitely needed some outside assistance,” he says.
Kopel-Bailey is now preparing applications for M.B.A. programs with the long-term goal of working in the field of sustainable business development.
“The Miller grant and other financial aid allowed me the luxury of choosing the school I really wanted to attend,” says Alexandra “Alex” Sundberg ’04, a native of Plymouth, Minnesota. “I managed to finish a biochemistry major with honors in four years, without racking up too much in student loans.”
Sundberg now works as a research assistant in the Department of dermatology at Oregon Health & Science University. She plans to complete a Ph.D. program in biochemistry and molecular biology with the goal of eventually becoming a science writer.
Hundreds of other students have benefited from Miller scholarships and grants, each with his or her own story of need, effort, and accomplishment. Still others have studied in the building that bears his name or have heard philosophy lectures from the named professor he supported, Nicholas Smith, Miller Professor of Humanities. Various arts and education organizations will continue to benefit from his generosity through the James F. and Marion L. Miller Foundation.
Jimmy Miller lived nearly a century, a rare feat. Rarer still, he shared his fortune with others to advance the causes he believed in. Lewis & Clark will long remember him. Happy birthday, Jimmy.
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