Announcing the J. Milton Adams Distinguished Fellowship

Announcing the J. Milton Adams Distinguished Fellowship

In 1971, when Milton Adams enrolled as a doctoral student in the Department of Biomedical Engineering, the program was just four years old. Now, almost 50 years after its creation, the department is one of the best in the nation. The contributions that Milton made over the years have been an important part of this success. The J. Milton Adams Distinguished Fellowship in Biomedical Engineering is one way we can recognize these efforts.

Milton’s influence on the caliber of the department can be felt in a number of ways. During the department’s formative years, he played a key role in establishing its research program. For his work on the way pulmonary disease alters neurological controls on breathing, Milton earned an NIH Career Development Award.

Milton is also an important reason that teaching is so highly prized by the department. As the thousands of students—both graduate and undergraduate—who have taken his physiology classes can attest, he is as engaging in the classroom as he is helpful and reassuring during office hours. Milton has won almost every award for teaching the department, the Engineering School and the University have to offer, including the University of Virginia Alumni Association Distinguished Professor Teaching Award.

But Milton has not just helped shape the department. He has had a profound impact on the rise of the Engineering School in the rankings and the University’s emergence as one of the national’s premier public institutions.

Milton served the School as associate dean for academic programs and the University as vice provost for academic affairs and senior vice provost. He launched signature programs that have come to define the undergraduate experience, from the January Term to the Jefferson Public Citizens Program. Most recently, he led the Cornerstone Plan initiative, arguably the most effective and influential strategic planning exercise in the University’s history. Two yeas ago, for visionary leadership over several decades, the University presented Milton with its highest honor, the Thomas Jefferson Award.

But there is an area in which Milton’s achievements have not been well recognized—his dedication to improving graduate studies. Milton devoted a decade of his career to graduate education, serving as graduate chair of the department and later as assistant dean for graduate programs. He did so because he understood that high-quality graduate students attract outstanding faculty, who in turn raise the standards for undergraduate education.

Throughout his career, as an educator, administrator, and researcher, Milton has focused on creating opportunities for students—both undergraduate and graduate.  For this reason, the J. Milton Adams Distinguished Fellowship will be used to fund a joint graduate/undergraduate research project as well as support a graduate student.  The undergraduate will be mentored by the fellowship holder and the pair’s faculty advisor.

The J. Milton Adams Distinguished Fellowship recognizes the wisdom of this viewpoint—and as such is an important element in the department’s drive for continued preeminence.


Fred Epstein, PhD
Professor and Chair
Department of Biomedical Engineering at the University of Virginia

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