In case you haven’t heard, an investor named Bill Miller just gave $75 million to the Johns Hopkins University philosophy department. The money will be used to double the size of the department and create nine endowed professorships. Money will also go to graduate students and postdoctoral fellows. Read all about it here.
The letter asks such a donor to consider two things:
- Give preference to the arts, humanities, and sciences
- Give preference to people, not buildings.
Here is a taste:
So consider endowing scholarships. Make it possible for at least a few students to come to their school of choice and pursue the studies that most closely align with their gifts, passions, and calling. Free them of the lifelong burden of feeling like they need to deny their vocation in order to maximize their salary and minimize their debt.
Or endow faculty chairs. Make it possible for at least a few professors to do their work — as teachers and scholars — without living in perpetual anxiety about how many students are taking their classes or how hard it is to demonstrate the practical value of their research. Make it possible for universities to keep their core disciplines somewhat insulated from the market pressures that tempt us away from our mission.
Miller’s gift to Johns Hopkins’ philosophy department, for example, will endow nine chairs, allow for the near-doubling of the philosophy faculty, and help graduate students and postdoctoral fellows continue their work.
If you’re in a position to do something at all similar to that… I’m not asking for a $75 million gift to the Bethel University Department of History. (Though I wouldn’t turn it away. Our development folks can be found here. Or email me to schedule a time to talk — believe it or not, I can say much more than what I’ve written here!)
Pick five such schools, or fifteen, and make smaller, still-transformative gifts that will allow them to fulfill their mission long into the 21st century. You will change the lives of students, and through them the world.
Thank you for reading. May God bless you with grace and peace, with wisdom and discernment.
Read the entire letter here.