About Lowell Milken, Founder

By developing groundbreaking national initiatives such as the Milken Educator Awards—the nation’s preeminent teacher recognition program—Lowell Milken’s work has strengthened opportunities and outcomes for hundreds of thousands of students and educators across the country.

Lowell Milken

“Education is at the heart of nearly everything we value as individuals, as citizens and as productive human beings.” — Lowell Milken


The Milken Educator Awards has thrived as one of several innovative K-12 education and medical research programs created under Lowell Milken's guidance as chairman and co-founder of the Milken Family Foundation.  Established in 1982, the Milken Family Foundation has been leading advances in education and medical research for over three decades, as well as helping to fund over 1,000 organizations worldwide with parallel missions.

Lowell created the Milken Educator Awards in order to recognize the importance of outstanding educators and to encourage talented young people to choose teaching as a career. Coined "the Oscars of teaching" by Teacher Magazine, the Milken Educator Awards recognizes exceptional teachers in surprise ceremonies surrounded by their students and faculty, where each educator is given an unrestricted $25,000 reward. First presented to twelve outstanding recipients in California in 1987, the Milken Educator Awards’ national network today is more than 2,600 strong and dedicated to strengthening the nation’s schools.

Lowell’s lifelong commitment to education reform has led to some of the country's most innovative means to dramatically improve teacher effectiveness, including TAP: The System for Teacher and Student Advancement. Founded in 1999, TAP was conceived by Lowell to significantly improve teacher recruitment, retention, practices, motivation and performance. A comprehensive school reform system, TAP provides powerful opportunities to teachers and administrators to pursue multiple career paths, receive ongoing daily-applied professional growth, participate in instructionally focused accountability and earn additional compensation and bonuses based on multiple measures of performance. TAP’s multi-tiered formula has resulted in higher levels of achievement with students and schools where TAP is implemented in comparison to respective non-TAP counterparts.

Based on the rapid growth, strong results and high demand for the TAP system, Lowell created the National Institute for Excellence in Teaching (NIET) in 2005 as an independent public charity to support and manage TAP nationally and to foster powerful teacher quality initiatives through the NIET Best Practices Center. Equipped with a staff drawn from the education and business communities, NIET forges partnerships with states, districts, schools, and non-profit organizations to ensure TAP's effectiveness and sustainability in a diverse set of urban, rural and suburban schools across America. The NIET Best Practices Center provides innovative services, support and solutions to schools, districts and states to improve educator effectiveness. Based on over ten years of experience in teacher quality initiatives, the Best Practices Center works with states, districts and schools to design powerful systems for teacher evaluation, job-embedded professional development, performance-based compensation based on multiple measures, and teacher leadership in schools. Together, the Best Practices Center and TAP are improving the educational experience for more than 200,000 teachers and 2.5 million students.

Another transformative educational organization, the Lowell Milken Center 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, people throughout America and the world learn that each of us has the responsibility and the power to take actions that "repair the world" by improving the lives of others. Founded in 2007 in partnership with Milken Educator Norman Conard (KS '92), the Lowell Milken Center has engaged more than 5,000 schools in all 50 states and 26 countries.

Further education efforts championed by Lowell include High Tech Los Angeles, a public charter school that engages students with a rigorous curriculum rich in technology and complemented by real-world internships. Officially dedicated in 2004, HTLA achieved California Distinguished School status in record time and, in 2013, was named California's top charter high school.

With the recent establishment of the Lowell Milken Institute for Business Law and Policy at UCLA School of Law, Lowell's work in education extends greater opportunities to UCLA law students, faculty, young law practitioners and alumni. Building on UCLA School of Law's already outstanding programs, the Lowell Milken Institute provides expanded studies in business law and policy, clinical experience, additional research opportunities for faculty, along with faculty fellowships, student scholarships, awards and business law conferences. The knowledge, skills and experience developed through the Lowell Milken Institute will help ensure that students are prepared to not only assume leadership roles in the practice of law, but also in the areas of business, government and philanthropy.

Among his numerous business endeavors, Lowell co-founded Knowledge Universe Education, the international leader in early childhood education, headquartered in Singapore with more than 38,000 employees worldwide.  He is chairman of London-based Heron International, a global leader in property development. 

Lowell Milken graduated 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.  At UCLA School of Law, he earned his degree with the distinctions of election to Order of the Coif and 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