The College Donor Digest

Philanthropy Chooses Philosophy

December 19, 2018 | Joe DeGraff

Many higher education donors supported the liberal arts with major gifts this year, including a $75 million gift to the philosophy department at Johns Hopkins University (pictured above). 

A record-breaking number of gifts to the liberal arts, and more specifically to philosophy departments, is an encouraging trend that emerged in 2018.

Donors who benefited from a philosophically rich education are now turning to targeted philanthropy to ensure this generation has the same opportunity. The largest gift to support the study of philosophy came from Bill Miller, Wall Street icon turned philanthropist. His $75 million dollar gift to Johns Hopkins University appears to be the largest gift to any philosophy department worldwide. When asked about the intent behind the gift, he noted that it was the philosophy courses at Johns Hopkins that contributed to his life of success: “[Philosophy] has made a huge difference both to my life outside business, in terms of adding a great degree of richness and knowledge, and to the actual decisions I’ve made in investing.”

Mr. Miller’s sentiment was mirrored by other donors who made substantial gifts to philosophy departments this year, including a $25 million gift to support the philosophy department and humanities division at UCLA. Gifts supporting the broader liberal arts also made headlines, including a $10 million gift to the Institute for the Arts and Humanities at UNC, a $6 million gift for liberal arts courses at Hiram College’s business school, and a $4 million gift to support creative writing classes at the University of Houston.

University administrations frequently leave vital liberal arts initiatives underfunded and understaffed. That’s why donors are stepping up to make sure the next generation of leaders, from tech gurus to business executives, acquire the writing, problem solving, and critical thinking skills that are gained though focused study of the liberal arts.

FAR hopes that this year’s promising sign becomes a permanent trend for academic renewal in higher education!

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The Fund for Academic Renewal is a program of the American Council of Trustees and Alumni, a not-for-profit, tax-exempt organization as defined by Section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code. All contributions to FAR are fully tax-deductible to the maximum extent provided by law.