FARMINGTON — In Wendy Ault’s opinion, no one cares about students the same way as longtime University of Maine at Farmington director of financial aid Ron Milliken.

Ron Milliken, the longtime director of financial aid at the University of Maine at Farmington, was recently recognized for dedicating his life to increasing educational opportunities for students in Maine. Submitted photo

“He would look under every rock, helping a student and their family figure out ways to afford an education,” said Ault, the executive director of the MELMAC Education Foundation and former associate director of admissions at UMF.

So when she heard Milliken had received yet another award, she was proud but not surprised, “There aren’t enough accolades for Ron Milliken,” she said.

Last week, Milliken received the Mitchell Institute’s inaugural Higher Education Professional of the Year award in recognition of his exceptional efforts to help Maine students pursue, afford and achieve a college education.

“These are the advisors, coaches, career counselors and members of admission, financial-aid and student-life staffs, who are boots on the ground and working longer than normal work weeks to lift up and support Maine students,” said Mitchell Institute President and CEO Jared Cash in a prepared statement. “Ron Milliken, our inaugural selection, sets a very high bar.” 

Rick Milliken, center, accepts the Mitchell Institute’s inaugural Higher Education Professional of the Year award at its gala Friday in place of his identical twin brother, Ron Milliken, who was ill and could not attend. Ron Milliken’s children, Molly and Mike, stand at his side. Submitted Photo

According to a press release, Milliken, a 1975 UMF graduate, is the longest-serving director of financial aid of any Maine college or university in recent memory. He worked in UMF’s financial aid office for 47 years before retiring earlier this year.


Milliken has made it his life’s work to help make educational opportunities more accessible for Maine students.

“Obviously, our problems are daunting right now: climate change, (the) pandemic, misinformation,” he said. “We could not need education any more than we do now.”

Among his many accomplishments, Milliken helped advocate for the expansion of the Maine State Grant Program, which provides need-based aid to Maine students pursuing college educations.

More than a decade ago, Milliken developed a peer-to-peer financial literacy program at UMF and trained students to assist their peers with financial issues, such as accessing financial aid, managing consumer debt, borrowing wisely and saving money.

“The truth is that (borrowing money) really has a lot of consequences, depending on how people manage it,” Milliken said. “Unfortunately, the system has made it really complex.”

Following the successful implementation of the program, the University of Maine system invested $1.3 million to expand UMF’s model to its other campuses in 2017.


Even if current and former UMF students may not know Milliken personally, Ault said he has had his “fingerprints all over every financial aid package that comes out of the UMF financial aid office. He’s had a big impact.”

Among those Milliken impacted was Craig Larrabee, president and CEO of Jobs for Maine Graduates and a 1992 UMF graduate.

“I’ll never forget being in high school my senior year in 1988 and receiving a note from Ron congratulating me on an award I received,” Larrabee recalled in a prepared statement. “This small gesture was the start of a relationship with the university that quite frankly changed my life.”

In 2016, UMF honored Milliken with its lifetime achievement award and, three years ago, he received the Education at Work for Maine Award from the Financial Authority of Maine.

The Mitchell Institute is a nonprofit organization founded by former U.S. Sen. George J. Mitchell to “unlock the potential of Maine college students so that they can find success in college and contribute to the vitality of their communities,” according to a news release.

The organization offers a total of $1.4 million in scholarships and college support programs to nearly 150 students from every public school in Maine. According to organization data, Mitchell Scholars graduate from college at a rate 30% higher than the national average.

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