News icon Mitchell Institute Names Longtime Maine Financial Aid Director Higher Education Professional of the Year

Estimated reading time: 4 minutes, 30 seconds.

Ron Milliken, who recently retired from a 47-year career in financial aid at the University of Maine at Farmington, received the inaugural honor at the Mitchell Institute’s annual Gala on Sept. 16, 2022.

Contact: Marc Glass / 207-358-7742

PORTLAND, Maine — The Mitchell Institute, a Maine-based nonprofit founded by Senator George J. Mitchell to improve college outcomes for students from every community in Maine, recently named longtime University of Maine at Farmington Director of Financial Aid Ron Milliken as its first Higher Education Professional of the Year.

As reported by the Sun Journal, the award, which was announced at the Mitchell Institute’s fall Gala on Sept. 16, 2022, recognizes higher education professionals whose extraordinary service to students supports the Institute’s mission of helping young people from Maine to pursue, afford and achieve a college education.

“These are the advisors, coaches, career counselors and members of admission, financial-aid and student-life staffs, who are boots on the ground and working longer than normal work weeks to lift up and support Maine students,” said Mitchell Institute President and CEO Jared Cash. “Ron Milliken, our inaugural selection, sets a very high bar.”

Milliken, the longest-serving director of financial aid at a Maine college or university in recent memory, retired from a 47-year career at the University of Maine at Farmington in early September 2022.

During his leadership at UMF, Milliken developed and piloted the highly successful Peer-to-Peer Financial Literacy Program, which trains students to provide other students with personal financial education and help with navigating financial decisions.

Milliken launched the innovative program at UMF in 2013, and the University of Maine System invested $1.3 million to expand the financial literacy program statewide in 2017. As part of the five-year expansion, trained peer financial educators at each of the University of Maine System campuses assist systemwide students with financial issues such as accessing financial aid, managing consumer debt, borrowing wisely and saving money. In the later years of the program’s growth, Financial Literacy Peer Educators provided outreach and training to middle and high school students in Maine.

For his work to increase financial literacy among young people statewide, the Finance Authority of Maine (FAME) presented Milliken and the financial literacy program with its 2019 Education at Work for Maine Award.

Milliken’s service to the profession includes leadership positions within the Maine Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators (MASFAA), which honored him with the Candace Johnson Vinette Award for Distinguished Service in 1991. The honor is given periodically to an individual who has made “special contributions of energy, spirit and dedication to increase access to higher education for the citizens of Maine and who has, by example, inspired others to greater professionalism in the financial aid community.”

Milliken also has served on FAME’s Educators for Maine Committee and was nominated to the MELMAC Education Foundation’s board of directors in 2009.

Ron Milliken’s identical twin brother, Rick, received the Higher Education Professional of the Year Award at the Institute’s annual fall Gala on Friday, Sept. 16, 2022, as Ron was unable to attend due to illness. Flanking Rick are Ron’s children, Molly and Michael. 

Wendy Ault, Executive Director, MELMAC Education Foundation, said Milliken is a university professional who is widely known for “going above and beyond” for Maine students and families.

“Through his steadfast commitment to access in higher education, Ron ensured that generations of Maine students had an affordable path to attaining their college and career goals,” Ault said. “Whether he was leading state-level discussions about financial aid policy or working directly with families at financial aid education nights held at rural Maine high schools, he led people with integrity, warmth and support.”

Colleen Quint, President and CEO of the Alfond Scholarship Foundation, praised Milliken for being a “steadfast advocate” for Maine students for more than 40 years.

“Ron has always been the consummate professional: knowledgeable, effective and thoughtful,” Quint said. “Perhaps most importantly, he has consistently kept his focus on the students he serves — both individually and collectively — making sure that they have what they need to access higher education and the opportunity it brings. There are literally thousands of Maine students who have benefited from his commitment and hard work.”

Jason Judd, Executive Director of Educate Maine, an organization whose programming includes the Maine Teacher of the Year award, said Milliken is a natural choice for the Mitchell Institute honor.

“Ron’s selection for the Institute’s first award recognizes and celebrates the decades of support that he has offered to students to enroll, persist, and graduate from the University of Maine at Farmington,” Judd said. “He has impacted thousands of families and worked as a tireless champion for postsecondary education both at UMF and across Maine.”

Among those Milliken impacted was Craig Larrabee, President and CEO of Jobs for Maine Graduates and a 1992 UMF graduate.

“I’ll never forget being in high school my senior year in 1988 and receiving a note from Ron congratulating me on an award I received,” Larrabee recalled. “This small gesture was the start of a relationship with the university that quite frankly changed my life.”

At a UMF retirement celebration held August 19, Milliken reflected on the importance of financial aid before a gathering of more than 100 colleagues and state higher education professionals.

“If ever you had to marry yourself to a goal or a cause, the cause of student aid is really part of the educational promise to our students,” Milliken said. “It is part of trying to make a future for people where their lives can be consequential, where they can do positive things towards the common good.”

Milliken is a 1975 graduate of the University of Maine at Farmington, which presented him with its Lifetime Achievement award in 2016.

About the Mitchell Institute

The Mitchell Institute unlocks the potential of Maine college students so that they can find success in college and contribute to the vitality of their communities. The organization awards $1.4 million in college scholarship funds every year to students from public high schools in every community in Maine, but what separates it from traditional scholarship organizations is the broader array of support programs that it provides to students. This combination of personal, professional and financial support makes college degrees more attainable for Mitchell Scholars, who graduate at a rate 30% higher than the national average. Mitchell Scholars are also more likely than their peers to stay in Maine or return to the state after college. Founded by Senator George J. Mitchell, the Mitchell Institute’s core mission is to improve the likelihood that young people from every community in Maine will aspire to, pursue, and achieve a college education. The Mitchell Institute strengthens Maine communities by providing a path to success in college and beyond.