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The Miller Foundation Award

The Miller Foundation’s generous gift enables us to position Portland State for regional, national, and international leadership by investing strategically in sustainability research and education.

The James F. and Marion L. Miller Foundation challenge grant of $25 million, awarded to Portland State University in September 2008, was the largest gift in the history of Portland State University and perhaps the largest single gift to sustainability in U.S. higher education history. This extraordinary gift demonstrated the Miller Foundation’s commitment to the city of Portland, its confidence in PSU’s future, and its encouragement of the University’s role as a leading urban research university.

As it is matched, this gift becomes a $50 million investment in Portland State, advancing our goal of becoming a regional and national leader in sustainability.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the gift for?

The purpose of this grant is threefold: to provide a catalytic infusion of support for core development goals selected by the University, to double the amount of this support to $50 million or more by providing the incentive that other donors must match the annual support from the Miller Foundation, and to create public awareness and excitement about the University’s further development as a leading urban research university.

The $25 million Miller grant focuses on PSU’s academic, research, and engagement activities in sustainability. The grant will be used to support areas such as:

  • faculty positions
  • research projects
  • community partnerships
  • leading edge conferences
  • student scholarships
  • graduate student fellowships
  • faculty fellowships, and more

As sustainability is an articulated campus-wide priority, literally every facet of the University may be affected by the gift—not just one school or college within the University. An internal budgeting process led by the Provost will determine funding allocations and will be reviewed annually by the Miller Foundation.

Is this a $50 Million endowment?

The Miller Foundation funds are not designated for endowment or capital projects but rather will support the programmatic needs of the University’s sustainability programs over the next ten years. Matching funds can be given towards endowment and capital projects, as long as they support sustainability.

What is sustainability?

If you’re encountering the concept of sustainability for the first time, you may be asking yourself what all the buzz is about. Most sustainability professionals offer some variation on the following definition: sustainability means meeting the economic, social, and environmental needs of the present without compromising the similar needs of future generations.

Portland State University is a leader in sustainability research and education, providing practical solutions to some of the world’s most pressing environmental, social, and economic problems. Today, Portland State’s sustainability research and education is focused on three primary areas of inquiry: Urban Sustainability: Building Smart Cities, Ecosystem Services: Understanding nature’s benefits, and Social Determinants of Health: Connecting wellness, place, and equity.

Is PSU naming something for the Miller Foundation?

With a significant investment of this caliber, the University proposed several permanent recognition opportunities to the Miller Foundation. However, at this time, the Foundation feels the leverage, increased visibility for the University, and the major community impact of this gift are all the recognition that they require.

Who are James & Marion Miller?

James F. “Jimmy” Miller was born in a small community outside of Portland, Oregon in 1905. Mr. Miller began his career as an errand runner at Blyth and Co. (predecessor to UBS Financial Services) at age 14. Without much formal education, he rose to become the president of Blyth & Co. in New York in the early 1960s. Mr. Miller lived and prospered in New York with his wife of nearly 68 years, Marion. He returned to Portland in 1998 where he continued to invest in the markets and advise others until his passing in 2004.

Mr. Miller was passionate about learning and researched languages, history, mythology, literature, ballet, music, the arts, and other cultures. Throughout their lives, he and his wife, Marion, gave generously to many cultural and educational institutions in both Oregon and New York. It was his hope that his legacy would serve as an example of what is possible given commitment, hard work, and the gift of time. The James F. and Marion L. Miller Foundation is committed to fulfilling Mr. Miller’s legacy by supporting the arts and education throughout the state of Oregon.

For more information about the The Miller Foundation, please visit their homepage at

The Miller Match: Get Involved

Join thousands of supporters who give their time and make donations to Portland State University every year by getting involved in our new $50 million sustainability investment. Thanks to a historic $25 million matching gift from the James F. and Marion L. Miller Foundation, you can help double their donation to advance sustainability in Portland by investing in this initiative. We appreciate your interest in Portland State, and look forward to talking with you about opportunities for your further involvement.

How do I make a matching gift and how big does it have to be?

Every size gift to the $50 million project is needed and welcome. Private support, stock gifts, corporate support, foundation grants, and other support for sustainability are all eligible for the Miller match. In addition, matching funds can be used for sustainability programmatic space (like the programs in the planned School of Business building) and for endowments such as a distinguished chair or an endowed scholarship. 

How can I become a part of this $50 million project?

If you would like more information about our work or how to support our mission, please contact Scott Shlaes, Director of Development for Sustainability Initiatives at (503) 725-2998.