Lowell Milken


Lowell Milken's lifelong commitment to strengthening K–12 education has led to some of the country's most innovative means to dramatically advance educator effectiveness. As founder of the National Institute for Excellence in Teaching, he guides a team of educators, research and policy experts who forge partnerships that create leadership and professional development opportunities for educators to thrive. Those working with NIET range from schools, districts and states to universities and other nonprofit organizations. NIET's services are rooted in the implementation of educator effectiveness best practices and comprehensive reform through TAP: The System for Teacher and Student Advancement. For the past two decades, researchers across the country have pointed to the success of NIET's approach, with proven outcomes of greater teacher effectiveness and improved student performance in schools throughout the nation.

Since 1982, Lowell has also chaired the Milken Family Foundation, which he co-founded to discover and advance inventive, effective ways of helping people help themselves and those around them lead productive and satisfying lives—the most conducive means to accomplish these goals being education. Among the Foundation's hallmark initiatives, Lowell created the Milken Educator Awards to celebrate, elevate and activate exemplary teachers and principals. Guided by the philosophy that the most talented in the profession should be honored and emulated—as they are in film, sports and many other fields—the Awards have surprised nearly 3,000 educators since 1987 with individual, unrestricted $25,000 rewards, presented during all-school ceremonies filled with cheering students, colleagues, distinguished officials and media. Recipients, who become part of the National Milken Educator Network, are selected in early to mid-career for what they have achieved—and for the promise of what they will accomplish in the future.

Often called the "Oscars of Teaching," the Milken Educator Award has become a national symbol of the crucial role that outstanding educators play in strengthening the skills, knowledge and experiences of the next generation of Americans and in encouraging talented young people to consider teaching as a career.

Another organization creating exceptional learning opportunities for educators, students and the community at large is the Lowell Milken Center for Unsung Heroes (LMC). Established by Lowell in 2007 in collaboration with 1992 Kansas Milken Educator Norman Conard, LMC discovers, develops and communicates the stories of Unsung Heroes who have made a profound and positive difference on the course of history. Through student-driven, project-based learning, students and entire communities learn that each person—regardless of age or circumstances—has the responsibility and the power to take actions that create change by improving the lives of others. The Lowell Milken Center has reached over 1 million students in all 50 states, with growing global reach. The Hall of Unsung Heroes opened in 2016 at the Lowell Milken Center's Fort Scott, Kansas, headquarters, as a state-of-the-art museum and hub of research and discovery.

Further education efforts championed by Lowell include the Hoffmitz Milken Center for Typography (HMCT) at Art Center College of Design, which honors the legacy of Leah Hoffmitz Milken, a letterform expert known for unique logotypes and typefaces and a legendary professor for two decades. The Center is dedicated to setting the global standard of excellence in typography and design education at a time of rapidly changing visual communication methods and devices.

In 2011, UCLA School of Law established the Lowell Milken Institute for Business Law and Policy (LMI) to extend greater opportunities to UCLA students, faculty, young law practitioners and alumni. Building on the school's already outstanding programs, LMI provides expanded studies in business law and policy, clinical experience and additional research opportunities for faculty, along with faculty fellowships, student scholarships, awards and business law conferences. The Lowell Milken Institute-Sandler Prize for New Entrepreneurs is a business plan competition offering a substantial financial prize to propel the winning business plan forward. The knowledge, skills and experience gained through LMI prepare students to assume leadership roles not only in the practice of law, but also in business, government and philanthropy. LMI recently launched a focused Program on Philanthropy and Nonprofits.

By creating strong and vibrant communities in philanthropy as well as business, Lowell actively promotes excellence in education for a global economy. Among other business leadership roles, he chairs the National Realty Trust, the largest property owner of early childhood centers in the U.S., and London-based Heron International, a worldwide leader in property development.

Lowell's accomplishments in education have been acknowledged with honors from the National Association of State Boards of Education, the Horace Mann League, the National Association of Secondary School Principals, Kappa Delta Pi international honor society in the field of education, and UCLA School of Law. In 2017, he was presented with the prestigious Education Commission of the States James Bryant Conant Award for significant individual contributions to American education.

Lowell's efforts to advance educational excellence draw inspiration from the talented teachers he was privileged to have in the California public school system, which he attended from elementary through graduate school. At UC Berkeley, he graduated Phi Beta Kappa and summa cum laude, receiving the School of Business Administration's Most Outstanding Student Award.

He received his law degree from UCLA, where he was awarded the academic honors of Order of the Coif and served on the UCLA Law Review. In 2009, Lowell was named UCLA Law Alumnus of the Year for Public Service. Both Chapman University and Hebrew Union College have presented Lowell with an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters.

 Lowell  Milken

"The only people who develop human potential and character as a calling are educators. This puts the men and women who choose to be teachers and principals in a position of unique power to help secure our children's future."

— NIET Founder Lowell Milken

Who is your favorite teacher?

My decades of work in K-12 education are rooted in my appreciation for outstanding teachers, developed during my formative years at Hesby Elementary School in Los Angeles’ San Fernando Valley. There, I was fortunate to have talented teachers who prepared me well to make the most of life's opportunities. My fifth- and sixth-grade teachers, Mr. Lew Fosse and Mr. Elliot Sutton, created special environments that inspired me and my fellow classmates to achieve at high levels and think independently. Warm and caring yet firm and challenging, they embodied the qualities of a legendary teacher who has the ability to leave a lasting impact on generations of young people.

What was your favorite subject in school and why?

It was exciting and meaningful for me to see Mr. Fosse and Mr. Sutton make direct connections between what we learned in school to the skills, knowledge and experiences that we would need to lead productive lives. I greatly enjoyed math, history and science. I often look back at Mr. Fosse’s way of tying America's quest for independence to my own young journey towards self-sufficiency and high standards of excellence. Mr. Sutton’s lessons in extemporaneous speaking encouraged us to think on our feet and his comprehensive end-of-the-year math and science exams made us understand that preparation was key to excellence. Even today when I am visiting classrooms, I am still enthusiastic when I see an outstanding teacher bring a lesson to life.