The Melbourne Beach, Florida, resident John T. Miller has an unconventional past. As a photographer for National Enquirer, he once hid in a garbage can for hours to get a picture of Elvis Presley. Miller then made a career transition to work for his alma mater and one of the most prestigious universities in the world: Princeton.
As the director of Princetoniana, a collection of historical information about the university, and the senior associate director of strategic partnerships and planning, Miller helped fundraise for Princeton University’s endowment, which just about tripled during his tenure. Princeton’s endowment—which is one of the largest in the world and includes investments and fundraising—currently stands at $22 billion.
Miller is now retired. In a series of interviews conducted in person and over the phone, I spoke to him about Princeton University, fundraising, and the state of higher education. A lightly edited version of our conversation follows.
Simone Dominique: After working for a tabloid, how did you land a job at Princeton University?
John Miller: I was employed as a paparazzo for the National Enquirer from 1974 through 1978 and began my career at Princeton in 1993. During the long interim, I work as an advertising and editorial photographer for a range of clients, from Fortune 500 corporations to nationally distributed magazines, state governments, and universities. I did numerous assignments over a period of many years for Princeton prior to being hired. I also engaged in many activities as an alumnus and co-authored a book on the history of Princeton, so I was well known in the university community.
Dominique: Do you think your experience with photography helped with development at Princeton? How so?