Johns Hopkins University recently received $75 million US from a former graduate student, Bill Miller. Miller had spent 3 years studying philosophy there.
Miller is a prominent investor who is supporting the philosophy department.
This gift is the largest of its kind for such a program. These programs usually get the least funding, as many don’t believe you can have a successful career by learning philosophy, history or literature.
Miller doesn’t buy the belief that studying the humanities is not practical. Miller says “I attribute much of my business success to the analytical training and habits of mind that were developed when I was a graduate student at Johns Hopkins”.
Johns Hopkins received a total of $637 million in donations in 2017, while the total higher-education donations amounted to $43.6 billion that year.
Much of this money generally doesn’t go to humanities studies. But these numbers have increased in the last few years. Donations rose 26% between 2005 and 2015. This means that the humanities actually received less than half of the 57% climb in higher education donations overall. This increase in donations for all colleges and universities shows up in numbers with $25.6 billion in 2005 to $40.3 billion in 2015.
Miller’s donation is the largest donation to support the humanities department at a university since 2006, even if it was smaller than all of the 14 biggest higher-education gifts of 2017.
This gift from Miller now means that Hopkins will be able to increase its philosophy faculty from 13 to 22 and expand programs for graduates and undergraduates students in the humanities departments when many other universities are downsizing these departments.
Miller wants students to become more interested in this field, which has been declining in numbers over the years.
With the popularity of students going into science and engineering, Miller believes he is responding to the workforce’s need to have more soft skills in the humanities.
After all, Steve Jobs said, “It’s in Apple’s DNA that technology alone is not enough, that it’s technology married with liberal arts, married with the humanities, that yields us the result that makes our hearts sing.”
Even though the humanities graduates generally make less than their counterparts, they are employed in their field and making a living. The average salary for a humanities graduate in 2015 was $52,000. That was less than the $82,000 for an engineering graduate, but equal to graduates in the life sciences.
These gaps in income are starting to narrow, it’s just taking some time.
The unemployment rate for humanities graduates in 2015 was 4.3%, which is a little higher than 3% for graduates in all the other fields.
In general humanities graduates are happy with their field choice and their jobs. With Miller’s gift, more students will get the chance to pursue their dream in the humanities.