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Lowell Milken

Founding Donor

An international businessman and philanthropist with three decades of work in education research, policy and practice–as well as firsthand visits to thousands of U.S. classrooms–Lowell Milken has earned the reputation as a visionary education reform leader. His personal and professional philosophy is guided by the belief that in every endeavor, it is the human element that makes the defining difference. Lowell Milken has been a vital contributor to American and world culture, education reform, and medical research for three decades.

By establishing North America’s first permanent academic home for the study of music of American Jewish experience, Lowell Milken’s transformational investment in 2020 established the Lowell Milken Center for American Jewish Music and built upon the 2017 fund of the same name. The fund enabled the UCLA Herb Alpert School of Music to begin its formal collaboration with the renowned Milken Archive of Jewish Music: The American Experience (The Archive), which Lowell founded in 1990 to record, preserve and disseminate music inspired by more than 350 years of Jewish life in the United States. The Archive partnership with the Lowell Milken Fund for American Jewish Music produced a diverse calendar of concerts, lectures and projects, ranging from klezmer workshops to large choral and orchestral performances to artist residencies and commissions of new music.

Since 1982, Lowell Milken has led the Milken Family Foundation (MFF) as chairman, guided by a core principle that “education is at the heart of nearly everything we value as individuals, as citizens and as productive human beings.” More than four decades of education research, policy and practices have followed, complemented by firsthand visits to thousands of classrooms and the creation of major national initiatives. Lowell’s historic efforts were recognized by the Education Commission of the States with the James Bryant Conant Award for significant individual contributions to American education; the following initiatives among them. Lowell developed the Milken Educator Awards to recognize the importance of outstanding teachers and to encourage talented young people to choose education as a profession. Hailed as “the Oscars of teaching,” the Awards recognize exceptional early-to-mid-career educators with unrestricted $25,000 rewards during surprise ceremonies surrounded by students, faculty, dignitaries and media. First presented in 1987, the Milken Educator Awards’ coast-to-coast network has grown to nearly 3,000 recipients committed to strengthening education at every level. This 2023-24 Awards season will add the 3,000 th educator to the Milken Educator Network.

With the Milken Educator Awards dedicated to recognizing excellence among the few, Lowell determined to generate excellence among the many as embodied by TAP: The System for Teacher and Student Advancement, a research-based model that puts educator effectiveness at the cornerstone of school improvement. Introduced in 1999, TAP incorporates multiple career paths; continuous job-embedded professional growth; performance-based compensation; and accountability with trained evaluators and detailed feedback for improvement. Demand for TAP’s principles led Lowell to establish the National Institute for Excellence in Teaching (NIET) in 2005, an independent public charity committed to ensuring a highly skilled, strongly motivated, and competitively compensated teacher for every classroom in America. NIET partners with schools, districts, states and universities to attract, develop, support, and retain the high-quality human capital necessary to raise achievement levels for all students. NIET has impacted over 300,000 educators and 3,000,000 students across more than 1,000 districts and has worked with over 75 universities to prepare a pipeline for the next generation of effective educators.

The Lowell Milken Center for Unsung Heroes (LMC) encourages student-driven project- based learning to discover, develop and communicate the stories of Unsung Heroes who have made a profound and positive difference on the course of history. The LMC Hall of Unsung Heroes based in Fort Scott, Kansas, is an interactive museum and research center attracting people of all ages. LMC has reached over 3,000,000 students worldwide through its online projects, educator resources and student competitions. The Fort Scott headquarters has welcomed visitors from all 50 states and around the world.

In 2011, the UCLA School of Law established the Lowell Milken Institute for Business Law and Policy (LMI) to prepare students for outstanding careers and leadership in law as well as business, government and philanthropy. LMI recently launched a focused Program on Philanthropy and Nonprofits.

At Art Center College of Design in Pasadena, California, the Hoffmitz Milken Center for Typography (HMCT) honors the legacy of Leah Hoffmitz Milken, a letterform expert and legendary professor. Expanding on a new model of typographic education, research and international discourse, HMCT is a catalyst and global resource for educational and professional developments in the fields of typography and visual communication.

Recognition for Lowell’s groundbreaking achievements includes awards from the National Association of State Boards of Education, Horace Mann League, National Association of Secondary School Principals, Jewish Theological Seminary, Kappa Delta Pi international honor society in the field of education, and UCLA School of Law. Chapman University and Hebrew Union College have each presented him with an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters.

Named by Worth magazine as one of America’s most generous philanthropists, Lowell is also an international businessman who chairs National Realty Trust and London- based Heron International, a worldwide leader in property development. Lowell’s global experience informs his strategic vision for the high-caliber educational opportunities vital to equip future generations to compete on the world stage and to secure America’s heritage as a democracy. Lowell Milken is a product of California's public school system, graduating Phi Beta Kappa and summa cum laude from the University of California, Berkeley, where he received the School of Business Administration’s Most Outstanding Student Award. He went on to earn a law degree from the University of California, Los Angeles, with academic honors of Order of the Coif and the distinction of UCLA Law Review.