About the Miller Center
P.O. Box 400406
Charlottesville, VA 22904
Miller Center Washington Office
(by appointment only)
801 17th St. NW
Washington, DC 20006
The Miller Center is a nonpartisan institute that seeks to expand understanding of the presidency, policy, and political history, providing critical insights for the nation’s governance challenges. Based at the University of Virginia, with offices in Charlottesville and in Washington, D.C., the Miller Center is committed to work grounded in rigorous scholarship and advanced through civil discourse. Gerald L. Baliles, 65th governor of Virginia and former chairman of the board of PBS, has served as director and CEO of the Miller Center since April 2006.
“History. Policy. Impact.”
Thomas Jefferson’s vision was for the University of Virginia to play a role in serving and advancing American democracy. In an age of sound bites, short-term fixes, and heightened partisanship, the Miller Center accordingly works to understand the powerful course of events to date and to provide historical insights for the policymaking challenges the country faces today. These insights put today’s policy debates in perspective, and point toward a framework for practical, lasting solutions in a time when sound nonpartisan thinking grounded in history is certainly needed. In providing insight into the institutions and issues that define our times, the Miller Center engages in four chief types of work:
Studying the institution of the presidency
We now conduct the official oral history project of every administration from Presidents Carter to George W. Bush. We are the only organization in America transcribing and annotating the thousands of hours of secret White House audio tapes of Presidents FDR through Nixon. This work provides first-hand accounts of how previous administrations have dealt with difficult and complex issues. In addition, the Miller Center website is the leading online resource for information on the institution of the presidency, including in-depth reference essays and rich archival material such as rare audio and video of speeches, on its acclaimed American President site. The Miller Center carries forward the University of Virginia’s unique connection with the U.S. presidency, from the time of Jefferson, Madison, and Monroe, through Woodrow Wilson.
Serving as a hub in academia for the study of political decision making
In addition to the Miller Center’s core faculty, top scholars from other parts of U.Va. hold joint appointments with the Center and leading scholars from throughout the country regularly participate in our programs. Our Fellowship Program for rising scholars completing their dissertations is creating the next generation of engaged public intellectuals and academic leaders. At our conferences, colloquia, and symposia, scholars and fellows explore the historical roots and political context of national and international policy decisionmaking, just as they do in their scholarship.
Encouraging civil discussion
The tone of public policy debates in this country has made it difficult to identify constructive solutions to the challenges we face. The Miller Center has worked to create a place where civil discussion can advance our national understanding and interests. To educate and help elevate public discussion, we regularly sponsor conferences on important issues, and through a partnership with ABC, we host a public debate series to present substantive policy discussions. And our Forum Program, carried nationally on PBS, offers leading officials, scholars, and journalists the opportunity for in-depth exposition and audience discussion.
Convening bipartisan blue-ribbon commissions
The Miller Center impacts current policy decisions. We convene bipartisan blue-ribbon policy commissions to develop recommendations on vital issues. For example, our War Powers Commission, co-chaired by Secretaries of State Jim Baker and Warren Christopher, deliberated for fifteen months and then delivered a set of practical, bipartisan recommendations to the president and Congress. In recent years, Presidents George W. Bush and Obama have asked to be briefed personally on the work of the Miller Center three times.
The Miller Center’s work is achieved through four distinct but related programs:
The Miller Center was founded in 1975 through the philanthropy of Burkett Miller, a 1914 graduate of the University of Virginia School of Law and prominent Tennessean. Troubled by the partisan rancor he saw developing throughout the nation, Miller envisioned a place where leaders, scholars, and the public could come together for discussion grounded in history, to find consensus solutions. He founded the Miller Center in memory of his father, White Burkett Miller. Through Mr. Miller’s lead gift, as well as through past and present gifts by the Center’s thousands of supporters, the Miller Center’s combined endowment now stands at more than $50 million. The Center, under the oversight of its Governing Council, is an integral part of the University of Virginia, with maximum autonomy within the University system. Its programs are supported fully by funds it solicits (through the Miller Center Foundation) and its endowment.
Gerald L. Baliles has served as director and CEO of the Miller Center since April 2006. Eugene V. Fife, former partner at Goldman Sachs and founding principal of Vawter Capital, is the chair of the Center’s Governing Council, and Joseph R. Gladden, Jr., former executive vice president and general counsel of Coca-Cola, is the chair of the Miller Center Foundation’s Board of Directors. Former Virginia Governor Linwood Holton was instrumental in founding the Miller Center and remains an active member of both its Governing Council and Foundation Board. The president and rector of the University of Virginia serve as ex officio members of both bodies.
Miller Center Scholars
At the heart of the Miller Center is the exceptional scholarship of its faculty. Our scholars are leaders in their fields, studying political decision making and its impact on policy development, with regards to the presidency and to U.S. policy more broadly. This scholarship can point to major practical insights. The Miller Center annually supports nearly 40 full-time or visiting scholars, including the former dean of the College, the current and two most recent chairs of the University’s department of politics, and the former president of the American Political Science Association. Our U.Va. faculty and visiting scholars together have written or edited more than 300 books, two of which were awarded the prestigious Bancroft Prize, the most distinguished award in the field of U.S. history. In recent years, work by our scholars has been published by leading commercial houses such as W. W. Norton and Rowman and Littlefield and university presses such as Cambridge, Oxford, Harvard, Cornell, and Chicago.
The Miller Center’s National Fellowship Program also continues to mentor scholars of the highest caliber. Many of the nearly 100 doctoral students who have been awarded the fellowship during this program’s ten-year history now hold tenure or tenure-track positions at leading colleges and universities, including Yale, Princeton, Columbia, NYU, Vassar, Williams, Vanderbilt, George Washington, William and Mary, Northwestern, and the Universities of Michigan, North Carolina, Colorado, and California.
Charlottesville and Washington, DC Offices
Fittingly, in its role as a national meeting place, the Miller Center enjoys an elegant physical plant of more than 15,000 square feet. The core of the Center’s facilities is the historic Faulkner House, built in 1856 and named for novelist William Faulkner, the University’s writer-in-residence in 1957. Faulkner House was the home of Senator Thomas S. Martin, who represented Virginia in the U.S. Senate from 1895 to 1919 and served as majority leader. In 1989 the Center added the Newman Pavilion, which houses the Forum Room, and in 2003 it built the Thompson Pavilion and Scripps Library. The additions are prominent examples of new traditional architecture. Learn more about the history of Faulkner House and the Center.
In October 2009, the Center opened an office in Washington, DC, the University’s first office in the nation’s capital. The office has generated new opportunities not readily available in Charlottesville. Since its opening, the office has expanded resources for Center scholars, enhanced ties with the broader University community, and served as a fruitful meeting place for federal officials, policymakers, and media representatives.