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ACTA Names Former Congressman Tom McMillen University “Trustee of the Year”

By Molly Mitchell, Director of Publications, American Council of Trustees and Alumni |

WASHINGTON, D.C., December 22, 2015 —The American Council of Trustees and Alumni (ACTA) announced today that former U.S. congressman and University System of Maryland regent Tom McMillen is the winner of its inaugural Jerry L. Martin Prize for Excellence in College Trusteeship. Mr. McMillen is current president of the Division 1A Athletic Directors’ Association.

A three-term Maryland congressman, Rhodes Scholar, U.S. Olympian and NBA basketball star, and successful entrepreneur, McMillen was a founding member of the Knight Commission on Intercollegiate Athletics and served from 2007 to 2015 on the University System of Maryland Board of Regents, which oversees the 12 campuses of the system. As regent, he made the university system a pioneer in athletic oversight, creating its first Workgroup on Intercollegiate Athletics. This oversight entity, unique in higher education governance, is responsible for examining athletic programs and policies as well as the board’s oversight and accountability processes. The Workgroup provides the board of regents with information such as athletic-department budget projections and athletes’ graduation rates, all of which are vital for board decisions on resources.

In 2013, McMillen coauthored a USA Today op-ed with U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, bringing nationwide attention to the huge disparity between academic and athletic bonuses for NCAA coaches. McMillen then led the effort to establish a new Maryland system board policy (the first in the country) requiring teams to meet a minimum academic threshold before any coach can be paid a bonus—a policy endorsed by the Secretary of Education.

McMillen has consistently underscored a trustee’s obligation to produce value for students, their families, and taxpayers. When administrators and an athletic conference pressured the system board to approve, without substantive deliberation, a multimillion conference agreement with significant impact on university and state resources, McMillen was the sole regent to vote in opposition.

McMillen has also been a national spokesman for active trusteeship. In 2014, he was one of 22 signatories to Governance for a New Era, a blueprint for higher education governance, the product of a summit facilitated by ACTA and chaired by Benno Schmidt, City University of New York board chairman. And in 2015, McMillen hosted “Best Practices in Athletic Oversight” as part of ACTA’s Higher Ed Now web series for trustees.

ACTA is a nonprofit organization devoted to empowering college and university trustees on behalf of academic freedom, academic excellence and accountability in higher education.The Martin Prize is named after ACTA’s first president and former University of Colorado professor, Dr. Jerry L. Martin, and is presented to acknowledge exemplary efforts by college and university trustees on behalf of the public interest.

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Tom McMillen

Tom McMillen