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Paul F. Miller Jr., 89, trailblazer in investment management

John C. Bogle, founder of the Vanguard Group, said Mr. Miller was "a deserved leader - not just a lot of outward appearances, not just charisma, [he had] real substance."

Paul F. Miller Jr., as seen in his online newsletter, Miller's Musings: Economic and Market Reflections.
Paul F. Miller Jr., as seen in his online newsletter, Miller's Musings: Economic and Market Reflections.Read moreCourtesy of the family.

Paul Fetterolf Miller Jr., 89, of Gladwyne, a trailblazer in the field of investment research and portfolio management, died in his sleep Saturday, Sept. 9, at his summer home on Squam Lake in New Hampshire.

Mr. Miller started his career in 1950 with the Federal Reserve Bank in Philadelphia, and from the get-go, he was a standout. In 1953, he joined the Philadelphia investment banking firm of Drexel & Co., where he rapidly rose to partner, and then became president of a successor firm, Drexel Harriman Ripley.

While there, he pioneered in-depth investment research and analysis for institutional clients. In 1969, he surprised the investment banking world by leaving Drexel to go into business for himself, launching one of the earliest "boutique" investment management firms with the formation of Miller Anderson & Sherrerd.

A bold step at that time, the creation of Miller Anderson proved more successful than Mr. Miller ever expected. It was purchased by Morgan Stanley in 1996.

"He always said he was in the right place at the right time, but it is also true that his intellect, charisma and self-confidence, as well as egalitarian treatment of those around him, contributed greatly to his success," his family said in a tribute.

Put in laymen's terms, Mr. Miller was a prognosticator for institutional clients. He studied the forces at work in the stock market's ups and downs, and guided and advised his clients on how best to invest their money.

But his egalitarian side shone through as well. In his online newsletter, Miller's Musings; Economic and Market Reflections, he offered financial guidance in a clear, moderate tone. The musings lasted from 2008 to 2012. In a 2012 entry, he cautioned against making too much of the fact that the U.S. economy was beginning to emerge from the 2008 downturn at a faster clip than in 2009 and 2010.

"But by most measures, we are still below where we were five years ago," he wrote. "The dents being made in unemployment are still minuscule, although total employment growth has been modestly encouraging. But the truth is that we are still clawing our way back from a precipice that was avoided by massive, world-wide monetary expansion, and giant federal deficits. This climate, I believe, will limit investor enthusiasm and valuations for some time to come."

John C. Bogle, founder and former CEO of the Vanguard Group, was a friend of Mr. Miller for six decades. He described Mr. Miller as extremely intelligent and thoughtful, a businessman with few weaknesses and a human side that helped endear him to others.

"Everything he touched he led. He was a leader," Bogle said. "And a deserved leader – not just a lot of outward appearances, not just charisma, real substance."

He said Mr. Miller was a "great salesman" who was successful as a marketer for his firms, in addition to being a sophisticated and intellectual investor.

Born in Philadelphia, Mr. Miller graduated in 1945 from Lower Merion High School, where he played soccer and by his own account was an unmotivated student.

He enlisted that year in the Coast Guard, where, he said, he "grew up in a hurry." In 1946, he enrolled in the University of Pennsylvania, which had become a part of his life when, as a boy, he learned to sing "The Red and Blue" while attending Penn football games with his father.

Paul F. Miller Jr., and his wife, Ella Warren Shafer Miller.

He graduated in 1950 with a bachelor of science degree in economics. While at Penn, Mr. Miller spotted Ella Warren Shafer waiting tables at her sorority house. The more he saw her, the more he became smitten. Later at a party, he declared: "That's the woman I'm going to marry."

The two did marry in 1952, and moved to Devon, then Gladwyne. Over the years, they divided their time among homes in Gladwyne, Squam Lake, and Useppa Island, Fla.

Mr. Miller remained passionate about Penn. He served on the board of trustees for over 30 years, and was its chairman from 1978 to 1986. He cochaired the university's 250th anniversary celebration and the Campaign for Penn: Keeping Franklin's Promise in the early 1990s, which raised more than $1 billion.

In 1981, Mr. Miller received an honorary degree from Penn, and in 1982, the university's Alumni Award of Merit.

He and his wife established the Paul F. Miller Jr., Scholarship, as well as the Paul F. & Warren S. Miller Professorship in the School of Arts and Sciences, the Miller-Sherrerd Endowed Professorship in the Wharton School, and the Ella Warren Shafer Miller Professorship in the School of Design.

Mr. Miller served as a director of the Mead Corp., Rohm & Haas Co., and Hewlett-Packard Co.

He was also a director of the Ford Foundation, World Wildlife Fund, Squam Lakes Natural Science Center, and the Useppa Island Historical Society. He was elected a member of the American Philosophical Society in 2005.

A lifelong angler, Mr. Miller fished in the Poconos, Maine, and at his vacation homes.  "He was forever messing around in boats," his family said.

He enjoyed gardening, reading, wildflower photography, tennis, golf, croquet, and hiking. A notorious napper and joker, he delighted in singing silly and sentimental songs.

Besides his wife of 65 years, he is survived by children Winky Merrill, Kathy Miller, and Paul "Buzz" Miller III; six grandchildren; and a sister.

A memorial service will be at 10:30 a.m. on Saturday, Dec. 2, in the Egypt Upper Gallery of the University of Pennsylvania Museum, 3260 South St., Philadelphia. Burial was private.

Donations may be made to the Squam Lakes Natural Science Center, 23 Science Center Rd., Holderness, N.H. 03245, or the Useppa Island Historical Society, P.O. Box 640, Bokeelia, Fla. 33922

Staff writer Chris Palmer contributed to this obituary.