The vision and passion of UCF’s founding president transformed 1,227 acres of scrub and bushes into what has become one of the largest universities in the nation.
Charles N. Millican was born on October 9, 1916 in Wilson, Arkansas.
He earned bachelor’s degrees in business and religion from Union University in Tennessee, a master’s degree in economics from George Peabody College in Tennessee, and a Ph.D. in business finance and economics from the University of Florida.
Millican served as pastor of Olive Branch Baptist Church in Mississippi before serving as a coordinator for the 44th College Training Detachment of the U.S. Army Air Forces during World War II. After the war, he returned to school, joining the commerce department at Union University. He later joined the faculty at UF, where he was subsequently appointed the assistant dean of the Warrington College of Business Administration in 1956, followed by dean of the School of Business Administration at Hardin Simmons University in Texas, and then dean of the College of Business Administration at the University of South Florida in 1959.
In 1965, Millican was chosen by the Florida Legislature 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.”
Considered the father of UCF, he is credited with selecting the university’s motto (“Reach for the Stars), its Pegasus logo, the twin tenets (“Accent on the individual” and “Accent on excellence”), and the campus’ concentric circle layout, with a focus on making the campus walkable for students, staff and faculty members.