Michael Milken

Financier, Philanthropist, Medical Research Innovator and Public Health Advocate

Michael Milken has always focused on disrupting—and improving—the status quo, whether in medical research, finance, public health or education. In 1972, three years after he began a legendary Wall Street career, his mother-in-law was diagnosed with breast cancer. That began his search for medical solutions, an effort recognized in the 2004 Fortune magazine cover story “The Man Who Changed Medicine.” Fortune stressed the changes he wrought, not just the checks he wrote: “No one had ever really pulled together the full picture of how—and how much—[Milken] has shaken up the medical establishment and saved lives … [He] has energized the medical establishment. Now thousands are living longer—and leaders everywhere are taking notice.”

Milken formalized his previous philanthropy in 1982 by co-founding the Milken Family Foundation, a major force for education reform and teacher recognition and for worldwide research on such medical issues as pediatric neurology, nutrition, brain and breast cancers and leukemia. In 1995, he hosted the first Cancer Summit, an event that led to a 1998 March on Washington in support of increased funding of biomedical research. Over the five years following the March, Congress increased the resources of the National Institutes of Health from $14 billion per year to $27 billion. To date, that incremental increase represents approximately $230 billion in additional public funding above the 1998 baseline. When funding increases slowed in 2003, Milken founded FasterCures, which works to remove bureaucratic and regulatory barriers to progress against all life-threatening diseases. In 2012, Milken and FasterCures hosted A Celebration of Science in Washington to call for a renewed commitment to biomedical research and to draw attention to its profound human, social and economic benefits.

Milken chairs the widely respected Milken Institute, a non-partisan economic think tank whose annual Global Conference brings 3,500 thought leaders and decision makers from 50+ nations to Los Angeles. Throughout the year, the Institute hosts more than 200 events around the world with topics including financial markets, jobs/human capital, medical research, and strategic philanthropy, among others. The Milken Institute School of Public Health was named in recognition of a major gift from the Institute.

Among other medical initiatives, Milken founded the Prostate Cancer Foundation, the world’s largest philanthropic funder of research on that disease, and he joined with leading physicians in launching the Melanoma Research Alliance to accelerate progress against fatal skin cancers. Death rates from both these diseases have declined dramatically.

The Milken Family Foundation’s coveted $25,000 Milken Educator Awards, called the “Oscars of Teaching” by Teacher magazine, is the largest such program in the U.S. and since 1985 has honored more than 2,700 K-12 teachers and principals in partnership with state departments of education. When Forbes magazine put Milken on its cover in 2014, they called him “a visionary reimagining our children’s future.”

As a financier, Milken revolutionized capital markets by pricing and rewarding risk more efficiently. This democratized capital by expanding access for smaller companies. A Washington Post column said he “helped create the conditions for America’s explosion of wealth and creativity,” a process BusinessWeek said “shook America’s defeatist Establishment out of its gloom.” Starting in 1969, he financed thousands of companies that created millions of jobs. An article in The New York Times said, “Mr. Milken helped create a new generation of companies and an entirely new way to finance nascent ideas that have helped fuel the global economy.”

Mike (what everyone calls him) graduated from Berkeley with highest distinction and earned his MBA from the Wharton School, where he was a Joseph Wharton Fellow. Mike and his wife of nearly 50 years, Lori, are members of the Giving Pledge; they have three children and nine grandchildren. Esquire magazine listed him among “The 75 Most Influential People of the 21st Century.”

More information is at www.mikemilken.com.