Millican was born October 9, 1916 in Wilson, Arkansas. While studying for a B.S. in Business and Religion from Union University, he worked part-time as a reporter for Dun and Bradstreet. After graduating in 1941, he became pastor of the Olive Branch Baptist Church (Mississippi), while also briefly teaching high school science. Continuing with his church duties, he entered the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Kentucky before returning to Jackson to serve as the college coordinator for the Forty-fourth College Training Detachment USAAF (Army Air Corps) from 1943-1945. He married Frances Hilliard of Jackson, Tennessee on May 15, 1945. The following year, he received his M.A. in Economics from George Peabody College and became Acting Head of the Commerce Department at Union University.
The Millicans moved to Florida in 1948 where Millican studied for his Ph.D. in Business Finance and Economics. At the University of Florida, he worked as a teaching assistant, instructor and finally as Assistant Professor. Although he was appointed Assistant Dean of the College of Business Administration in 1956, he moved almost immediately to Texas where he became Dean and Professor of the School of Business Administration at Hardin-Simmons University. In 1959, he returned to Florida to become Dean of the College of Business Administration at the University of South Florida.
When Millican was appointed President of the new university in 1965, the university had no name, no buildings, no faculty and no students; he had to create the university over which he would preside. After Millican’s appointment, he hired staff, found premises, and began the slow process of creating his university.
He recognized three basic principles which he firmly believed the new institution should adhere to: the value of each human being; the importance of the quality of one’s performance; and, the promotion of college spirit. In doing so, he established the twin tenets of “Accent on the Individual”, “Accent on Excellence,” which continue to guide the University, and the motto, “Reach for the Stars”. In addition, he co-designed the “Pegasus” official seal of the university.
As early as 1969, Dr. Millican began working to establish a research park associated with the University. Although he retired as President in 1978, others continued his efforts resulting in the opening of the Central Florida Research Park in 1982. After retiring from the presidency, Millican returned to teaching finance as a professor in the College of Business at the University of Central Florida, as it was now known, and earned the title President Emeritus. After retiring from the University in 1981, Dr. Millican became the President of Lake Highland Preparatory School, serving from 1982-1985, and continued as President Emeritus-Consultant until 1993. Millican returned to serve the University in 1993 as President Emeritus and Special Assistant to the Chief Executive Officer of the UCF Foundation.
Charles N. Millican, the ‘Father of UCF’
The vision and passion of UCF’s founding president transformed 1,227 acres of scrub and bushes into what has become the nation’s second-largest university.
The founding president of the University of Central Florida, who likened the challenge of building what would become the nation’s second-largest university to climbing Mt. Everest, died Wednesday, Dec. 1, at his Central Florida home. He was 94.
Charles N. Millican, considered the father of UCF, was chosen by the Florida Legislature in 1965 to help plan and build what was then called Florida Technological University. He had a budget of $75,000, an office above a drugstore in downtown Orlando and marching orders to make it happen.
“When I thought about all that needed to be done to open by the fall of ’68, it scared the living daylights out of me,” Millican said in 1998. “A half a minute later, I realized I had to take it step-by-step, day-by-day to put all the pieces together.”
“It was sort of like having the opportunity to climb Mt. Everest.”
UCF President John Hitt credited Millican for having the foresight to see how much UCF could achieve.
“Martha, I and the university have experienced a great loss,” Hitt said. “Few universities have enjoyed the kind of lifelong passion that Charlie Millican invested in UCF. From my earliest days as president, I have not only enjoyed his friendship but also appreciated his wise and generous counsel.
“His constant support and sage advice have inspired us all as we strive to build the great university he envisioned.”
“Charlie Millican was a genuinely decent man with a big vision,” added Rick Walsh, chair of the UCF Board of Trustees. “My goodness — look what he started. He was an educator, minister, leader and my friend for nearly 40 years. We will miss him terribly but celebrate a life well lived.”
UCF’s ‘Founding Father’ Honored for a Life Well-Lived
Charles N. Millican never had any children, but the University of Central Florida’s founding president cherished his extended family of more than 200,000 students and graduates.
He encouraged the football team with shouts of “Go boys!” while puffing on his pipe, and he was proud that the first nurse he met when he went into hospice care was a UCF graduate.
“He had a way about him that made an impression on everyone he met. He recognized the importance of everyone, and he made you feel that way,” said Jeff Grasty, whose father served as a vice president under Millican and whose children came to know Millican and his wife, Frances, as grandparents.
“We should all be really proud to say that he was a part of our family, and we should plan on telling his story over and over again.”
Several hundred people gathered inside the Student Union on Monday to celebrate Millican’s fatherly love for UCF students and his dedication to what he helped transform into the nation’s second-largest university.
‘Reach for the Stars’
Forty-five years after Charles Millican became president of “1,227 acres of scrub and bushes” in East Orlando, the UCF campus features many tributes to his legacy. The university’s main administration building is named in his honor, and visitors approaching Millican Hall pass a statue of him erected in 2009. Alumni and other donors who paid for the statue named it “Reach for the Stars” to commemorate the motto Millican selected for the university.
You also can think of Dr. Millican anytime you walk on campus or see a Pegasus logo on a UCF building or stationary. He set up the campus as a series of concentric circles, making it walkable for students and staff and faculty members, and selected the Pegasus as UCF’s logo.
In Memory of Dr. Millican
Donations in memory of President Millican can be made to the UCF Women’s Club First Ladies’ Graduate Scholarship Fund.