CUNY Chancellor Announces Retirement, Cites Throat Cancer as Cause

Chancellor James B. Milliken. Photo Credit: CUNY

By Greis Torres

CUNY Chancellor James B. Milliken announced that he is planning to step down from his position at the end of next semester due to health issues.

Milliken, who came to New York from Nebraska in June 2014, will be leaving an annual compensation package of roughly $670,000 per year according to The Chronicle of Higher Education.

In a letter sent to all CUNY schools and staff on Nov. 21, Milliken disclosed that he was diagnosed with throat cancer after his 60th birthday. Milliken stated in the letter that other health issues have emerged and that he will need to pay attention to them from now on, but overall his prognosis was very good and that his symptoms were sobering

“I expect to be active and working for many more years, but there is no denying that the last nine months have been draining physically and emotionally,” said Milliken in an email. “The experience has given me an even deeper commitment to enjoying fully my work, my family and friends, and my life.”  

Milliken said that he let everyone know ahead of time about his plans to resign in order for the CUNY Board of Trustees to start searching for a new chancellor for the 2018-2019 academic year.

In his announcement, Milliken hinted that changes in the Board of Trustees may have influenced his decision. He noted that he was appointed in January of 2014 by a group of 17 board members, only two of which remain on the board.

“The governor has appointed nine new members and the major four,” said Milliken. “These new trustees will have their own ideas about CUNY, and they should have the opportunity to help shape the leadership and agenda for the future.”

The New York Post reported that among his job perks, Milliken lived rent-free in an upper east side apartment that cost taxpayers nearly $20,000 a month.  

In his retirement announcement, Milliken noted that CUNY has recently achieved several accomplishments such as putting community colleges on track to double their graduation rates, launched a new medical school that could be considered the most diverse in the country, and an independent public health school.

During his tenure, Milliken diversified the university system by appointing 12 new campus leaders with the majority being women and people of color, adding more women and minorities in tech careers, providing support to foster youth, and launching several initiatives to improve performance.

On Nov. 28, Milliken said during an interview on NY1’s “Road to City Hall” that it was about time that CUNY is being recognized as the leading urban public education university. He added that what CUNY does for the nation is to help immigrants and low-income students to get a degree.  

“On behalf of the entire board, I want to thank Chancellor Milliken for his tireless dedication to public education and for propelling CUNY to become the greatest urban university in the world,” said William C. Thompson Jr., Board of Trustees chairperson in a press release. “He has been a true advocate, and we deeply appreciate everything he has done for CUNY.”

Between now and next semester, Milliken is planning to continue working on CUNY’s strategic plans in order to change the old policies implemented at the University as a way to improve various internal services.

“I look forward to finishing my term with a few commencements, and I will leave the chancellorship with fresh memories of so many first-generation college-goers, immigrants, low-income, underrepresented students receiving their degrees in the presence of euphoric friends and family,” said Milliken.    

  Throughout the letter, Milliken expressed how rewarding it has been to work for CUNY. He expressed his gratitude towards CUNY students, staff and faculty, and trustees.

“I have been given one of life’s great gifts-the chance to do something I love that has a positive impact on many,” said Milliken. “I have been enormously fortunate to be part of expanding opportunity and success to students on a scale no other university can match, and I will always be grateful for that.”

Before becoming the chancellor of CUNY, Milliken served as the senior vice president of the 16 campus system of the University of North Carolina, and after that he became the president of his alma mater, the University of Nebraska for a decade.

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