Frederick W. Miller, the longtime chairman of the board of The Capital Times Co. who died Dec. 15 at the age of 91, left more than $7 million of his estate to the University of Wisconsin-Madison to endow the deanship of its Law School, from which he graduated in 1936.
The bequest, announced by the university today, is the largest in the history of the Law School.
"Fred was always a devoted friend of the university and this generous gift will go far to ensure that his name will always be associated with excellence in the Law School," Chancellor John Wiley said. "He was always interested in top-notch academics and his philanthropy reflected that."
Mr. Miller's gift provides the first named deanship on the Madison campus. The post is currently held by Kenneth B. Davis Jr., who will now be known as the Frederick W. Miller dean of the Law School.
The donation will cover the costs of the deanship, which includes salary and fringe benefits, and provide other support for legal education on the Madison campus.
Davis' current salary is $212,400. Davis said the actual annual gift will amount to $366,000, and the UW Foundation will reinvest anything left over after his salary and fringe benefits.
The Law School, with an annual budget of $18 million, will be able to spend the money originally allocated for his salary and benefits, Davis said. He said the gift will not mean he gets a raise, noting, "It's a zero budget year."
But when it comes time to select his successor, the university will have a larger pool of money to work from, he said.
"The Law School could search for the most outstanding future leaders, nationally, knowing money will not be a practical obstacle," Davis said.
"This gift is a reflection of Fred Miller's dedication to the school and his wish that it continue to be a vibrant teacher of future generations of attorneys. We are incredibly grateful for his vision, his generosity and his unbending attention to academic achievement."
Mr. Miller's longtime friends Gordon and Marjorie Davenport of Madison served as the executors of the estate.
"He frequently talked about the university and how proud he was of it," Gordon Davenport said. "His aim in this gift was to help to make the Law School pre-eminent in the nation. It's his pride in the Law School that is behind this."
After graduating from the Law School, Mr. Miller was one of the attorneys hired to establish Wisconsin's unemployment compensation program, the first in the nation. He wound up working as a state government attorney for 41 years, including several years as an administrative law judge.
Early in his career he was named to the board of The Capital Times Co. by William T. Evjue, the paper's founder. After his retirement from state service, he was elected president of the board of The Capital Times Co. in 1978 and also was named the newspaper's third publisher, a post he held until 1993. He continued as the chairman of the board until his death.
Additionally, he served as treasurer of The Evjue Foundation, the newspaper's charitable arm, and guided the growth of the foundation from a few thousand dollars that Mr. Evjue left in his will to more than $25 million in assets today.
Under Mr. Miller's influence, the foundation has long been a major supporter of university programs. Last year alone it made 45 grants to the school, ranging from a $1 million pledge for renovation of the communications center at Camp Randall to a gift to the African Studies Program.
Wiley noted that Mr. Miller had a particular interest in the Wisconsin Idea - the notion that "the boundaries of the university are the boundaries of the state," that university experts should contribute to public betterment - and was instrumental in creating the William T. Evjue Chair for the Wisconsin Idea, a post now held by chemist Bassam Shakhashiri.
In addition to his Law School degree, Mr. Miller had a bachelor's degree in political science from the UW, and he lettered in basketball in 1931, 1932 and 1933. As a freshman, he played in the first basketball game ever played at the UW Field House and in his first year in Law School he coached the freshman team.
Andrew "Sandy" Wilcox, president of the UW Foundation, said Mr. Miller's philanthropy left a profound mark on the university community and Madison at large.
"This latest gift guarantees that Fred's influence will continue to be felt at the UW-Madison, as it is throughout our community," he added. "His support of the Law School is a lasting tribute to his commitment."