The career of Michael Milken, co-founder of the Milken Family Foundation, has mirrored his four main professional passions: medical research, education, public health and access to capital. In each, he has been uniquely successful in creating value, whether measured in lives saved, students inspired or jobs created.
In 1972, three years after Mike began a legendary career on Wall Street, his wife told him her mother had been diagnosed with breast cancer. That was when he began a search for medical solutions that has played as large a role in his life as his better-known innovations in finance.
Mike has been recognized for his decades of driving medical research toward cures and improved treatments. A Fortune magazine cover story called him "The Man Who Changed Medicine." He helped launch the Melanoma Research Alliance to accelerate research progress against fatal skin cancers, and he serves as chairman of FasterCures, a Washington-based think tank dedicated to accelerating progress against all life-threatening diseases. He also founded the Prostate Cancer Foundation, whose grants to 2,000 medical studies globally make it the world's largest philanthropic funder of prostate-cancer research.
In 1995, Mike 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 more than $230 billion in additional public funding above the 1998 baseline. The yield on that investment is accelerated scientific discovery that has saved, enhanced and extended millions of lives around the world.
Because federal budget pressures threaten continued life-saving investments, Mike has called for a renewed national commitment to biomedical research. In 2012, he hosted A Celebration of Science in Washington to honor scientific achievement and draw attention to the profound human, social and economic benefits that flow from research. Senior members of Congress, from both parties, joined more than 1,000 leaders in medical research, bioscience, patient advocacy, industry, philanthropy and public policy.
In a 2016 Wall Street Journal op-ed article, he urged Congress and the new Trump administration to expand access to Veterans Administration data so every veteran has access to the finest treatments; pass the 21st Century Cures Act to accelerate medical science; and "set a consistent funding goal and stick to it" so young scientists and physicians have better assurance of meaningful career opportunities.
Mike also chairs the Milken Institute, whose annual Global Conference brings more than 3,500 decision makers from 50 nations to Los Angeles. The Institute also hosts major conferences each year in London, Singapore, New York and Washington, D.C., as well as 200 smaller events around the world. In 2014, the Institute announced the naming of the Milken Institute School of Public Health at George Washington University. Separately, the Institute's Center for Public Health hosts an annual Public Health Summit.
Forbes magazine featured him with other philanthropists in a cover story calling them "Best in Class – The Visionaries Reimagining Our Children's Future" and highlighting Mike's decades of work on education. One such program, the Milken Scholars, was established by Mike and Lori Milken in 1989 and has provided support and lifetime mentoring for more than 400 outstanding college-bound students who have excelled academically, served their communities, and triumphed over obstacles.
Mike and Lori are members of the Giving Pledge and are Founding Donors of the National Museum of African American History and Culture, the newest Smithsonian Institution museum on the National Mall in Washington.
As a financier, Mike is often said to have revolutionized modern capital markets, making them more democratic and dynamic by expanding access to capital for thousands of smaller companies and by pricing and rewarding risk more efficiently. A Washington Post column said he "helped create the conditions for America's explosion of wealth and creativity," a process that Business Week said "shook America's defeatist Establishment out of its gloom." Starting in 1969, he financed thousands of companies that created millions of jobs.
He was elected a member of Phi Beta Kappa at the University of California, Berkeley, and graduated with highest honors. He received his MBA from the University of Pennsylvania's Wharton School, where he was a Joseph Wharton Fellow. He writes frequently about public-policy issues in major publications and is a widely sought-after speaker at conferences around the world. He and his wife Lori were married in 1968 and have three children and nine grandchildren. More information is at www.mikemilken.com.