J. Irwin Miller, 95, the industrialist and philanthropist who guided Cummins Engine Co. to international prominence and helped shape his home town of Columbus, Ind., into an architectural gem, died Aug. 16 at his home in Columbus. No cause of death was reported.
Mr. Miller was not yet 30 when he became Cummins's general manager in 1934. He led the maker of diesel engines and power equipment until his retirement as chairman and chief executive in 1977. The Washington Post once reported that Cummins Engine Co. was the largest paymaster in Columbus.
In 1957, Mr. Miller offered to pay the architect's fee for a new school building -- provided that the school board hire an outstanding American architect.
The fees he paid beginning with that project attracted some of the nation's most distinguished architects to design public buildings in the city of about 39,000 people some 40 miles south of Indianapolis.
Since the architectural program began in 1957, the foundation Mr. Miller funded has paid $13.7 million in fees for 42 projects, including Columbus City Hall, the Bartholomew County Jail and 12 of the 17 schools in the Bartholomew Consolidated School Corp.
Architecture was a personal passion for Mr. Miller. The home he and his wife built in 1957, designed by Eero Saarinen, was designated a national historic landmark in 2001.
The American Institute of Architects named Mr. Miller an honorary member for his work in his southern Indiana home town, which the AIA ranks with New York, Chicago and Washington as a U.S. center for design and innovation.
Joseph Irwin Miller was a Columbus native and a 1931 graduate of Yale University. He received a master's degree from Oxford University in 1933. He served with the Navy during World War II.
Survivors include his wife, Xenia Simons Miller, whom he married in 1943; and five children.