Miller Leaves Enduring Legacy
June 14, 2004
James F. “Jimmy” Miller, a private investor, philanthropist, and life trustee of the College, died June 3, 2004, at age 99.
Miller’s life was a classic American success story. After graduating from Lincoln High School, the 16-year-old Miller worked as an office boy at Blyth & Company Investments in Portland. He briefly attended the University of Washington, an opportunity cut short by financial circumstances.
Miller’s achievements were rooted in a singular strength of character and resolve. Following the market crash of 1929, he decided to recruit as investment clients his 50 toughest prospects, convinced that he would succeed with them or not at all. By the time he had worked through half his list, he had more business than he could manage.
In 1962, Miller engineered the first leveraged buyout, Albemarle Paper Company’s acquisition of the much larger Ethyl Corporation. His gifts for research, statistics, and innovation helped advance his career, and in 1967 he became president of the New York office of Blyth & Company. He served as advisory director of PaineWebber (formerly Blyth, Eastman, Paine & Webber) until 1989, but remained active as a personal adviser and investor.
Not content merely to exercise his acumen in business, Miller was a generous philanthropist dedicated to many causes in education, health, and the arts. After making his initial gift of $25 to Lewis & Clark in 1945, Miller generously supported the annual fund, established two endowed scholarship funds, and helped create the Morgan S. Odell Professorship in the Humanities. In 1997, the College dedicated the James F. Miller Center for the Humanities (above, right), which was made possible by a pledge from Miller that stands among the largest single gifts ever received by Lewis & Clark. In 2000, he initiated an annual grant program that provided substantial financial assistance to more than 125 worthy students each year. Recently, through a trust, Miller helped fund construction of John R. Howard Hall, which will open in 2005 and will house most of the Division of Social Sciences.
In addition, Miller served as a Lewis & Clark trustee from 1956 until 1965, when he was elected a life trustee. In recognition of his support and commitment, the College awarded him an honorary degree in 1973 and an Aubrey R. Watzek Award in 1999.
“Only seldom does any one individual have so many traits reflective of a person of value, character, and selflessness,” says Dr. Robert B. Pamplin Jr. ’64, ’65, ’66, former board chair and life trustee of the College. “Truly, Jimmy Miller displayed these attributes, and his legacy is a life that exemplified these high principles.”
The next issue of the Chronicle will include more information on how Miller, one of the College’s most beloved and generous benefactors, helped transform Lewis & Clark.