The vision and passion of UCF’s founding president transformed 1,227 acres of scrub and bushes into what has become the one of the largest universities in the nation.
Charles N. Millican, considered the father of UCF, was chosen by the Florida Legislature in 1965 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.”
UCF President Emeritus John Hitt credited Millican for having the foresight to see how much UCF could achieve.
“His constant support and sage advice have inspired us all as we strive to build the great university he envisioned.”
UCF’s ‘Founding Father’
Charles N. Millican never had any children, but he cherished his extended family of more than 200,000 students and graduates.
He encouraged the football team with shouts of “Go boys!” while puffing on his pipe, and he was proud that the first nurse he met when he went into hospice care was a UCF graduate.
“He had a way about him that made an impression on everyone he met. He recognized the importance of everyone, and he made you feel that way,” said Jeff Grasty, whose father served as a vice president under Millican and whose children came to know Millican and his wife, Frances, as grandparents.
“We should all be really proud to say that he was a part of our family, and we should plan on telling his story over and over again.”
‘Reach for the Stars’
Forty-five years after Charles Millican became president of “1,227 acres of scrub and bushes” in East Orlando, the UCF campus features many tributes to his legacy. The university’s main administration building is named in his honor, and visitors approaching Millican Hall pass a statue of him erected in 2009. Alumni and other donors who paid for the statue named it “Reach for the Stars” to commemorate the motto Millican selected for the university.
You also can think of Dr. Millican anytime you walk on campus or see a Pegasus logo on a UCF building or stationary. He set up the campus as a series of concentric circles, making it walkable for students and staff and faculty members, and selected the Pegasus as UCF’s logo.