Gregory A. Milken, C’95, and EJ Milken

October 14, 2016

“My family is passionate about education, and we’re big believers that education makes a huge difference in a person’s life.”

by Karen Doss Bowman 

For Gregory A. Milken, C’95, supporting education is a family tradition. “My family is passionate about education, and we’re big believers that education makes a huge difference in a person’s life,” says Gregory, an international businessman who has worked for and invested in numerous technology startup companies. His parents’ philanthropy sparked his multifaceted commitment to education—and the new traditions he has created with his family at Penn GSE.  

Driven by a shared passion for education, EJ Milken (left) and Gregory A. Milken, C’95 (right), support innovation, faculty, and students at Penn GSE.
Photo courtesy of the Milken family.
Gregory was a teenager when his parents, Lori Milken, GED’72, and Michael Milken, WG’70, established the Milken Scholars Program as an initiative of the California-based Milken Family Foundation. Around the same time, his mother, a GSE alumna, began her term on the Penn GSE Board of Overseers. Having seen the impact of both organizations up close from an early age, Gregory has spent the past ten years as director of the Milken Scholars— and followed in his mother’s footsteps by serving on the Board of Overseers at GSE.  

“Education is the path to a better job and a better life,” says Gregory, cofounder and managing director of March Capital Partners, a global investment firm. “It’s very hard to achieve the American Dream without education, and I’ve seen that reflected in the programs my family supports and operates.”  

Gregory’s parents, Michael Milken, WG’70 (left), and Lori Milken, GED’72 (right), made supporting education a family tradition. 
Photo courtesy of the Milken family.
Since its inception, the Milken Scholars program, now jointly run by the Milken Institute, has provided financial support and mentoring to over four hundred students from New York City, Washington, DC, and Los Angeles. Selected on the basis of their accomplishments and ability to overcome obstacles, the scholars have a 99 percent college graduation rate, with many going on to graduate school and becoming leaders in their fields.  

“Many of the Milken Scholars have been the first in their family to attend college or university, so helping them succeed has certainly been a highlight for me,” says Gregory, also a trustee of the Milken Family Foundation. “Our alumni act as mentors to the incoming scholars, so these students can see how the program has helped others succeed for the long term.”  

At GSE, Gregory has launched multiple initiatives, aiming to support the broad scope of both education and GSE’s work.  

“Penn GSE is a leader at the forefront of education,” says Gregory. “It is committed to innovation and preparing its students to thrive in a field that is constantly changing.”  

In 2010, with the purpose of “fueling game-changing innovations in education,” Gregory cofounded the annual Milken-Penn GSE Education Business Plan Competition (EBPC), a partnership between GSE and the Milken Family Foundation. The first business plan competition sponsored by an education school and the largest competition of its kind today, the EBPC draws an international field of entrants and rewards early-stage and advanced ventures.  

The finalist round of the EBPC is part of a conference for education entrepreneurs, investors, practitioners, and researchers where GSE faculty and other experts have the opportunity to share how research can test the value of new education ventures. Finalists can also be invited to join the Education Design Studio Inc. (EDSi), a hybrid incubator and seed fund built specifically for education ventures.  

“This incubator is a one-of-a-kind collaboration between GSE and other partners, and emphasizes the importance of good research for any education business,” says Gregory, who earned his MBA and a master’s degree in international policy studies from Stanford University. “The business plan competition has been a fantastic way to bring together people from all over the world to share ideas about improving education. I’ve been proud of the continued success of our winners and finalists, and the ways we have enhanced the program each year.”  

Gregory’s wife, EJ, shares the Milken family’s passion for education. Codirector of the Milken Scholars Program, she has served on the board of Spark Los Angeles and other civic organizations. In 2014, the couple launched the Gregory and EJ Milken Foundation Faculty Support Fund at Penn GSE to provide grants each year for GSE faculty projects. The fund aims to support groundbreaking ideas, research, and programming with the potential to transform education.  

“Faculty research is the driving force of innovation and best practices in education,” says EJ, a partner at Kikori Whiskey. “The work of Penn GSE faculty will have a wide-reaching and long-lasting effect on education, both nationally and internationally.”

Gregory and EJ, who reside in Los Angeles with their four children, also support GSE students through the Gregory and EJ Milken Foundation Scholarship.  

“Penn GSE educates the finest teachers and administrators, who will create the most successful models and programs in teaching and educational administration,” says EJ.  

Gregory notes that supporting GSE in multiple ways is a part of acknowledging the complexity of education and the School’s impact. “Education is vast, and so is the scope of Penn GSE’s leadership,” he says. “It would be hard for me to support the School’s work in education entrepreneurship without also supporting GSE faculty, who continue to reveal through research how learning can be improved, and GSE students, who go on to educate and shape the field.”  

For both Gregory and EJ, the greatest rewards of supporting education are seeing people succeed.  

“It has been rewarding to view up-close the impact that high standards and expectations have had on all of the organizations that we love and support,” says EJ. “Witnessing the positive outcomes in scholars, educators, and all types of communities that need assistance propels us to work even harder to help each organization meet their targets and goals.”  

Gregory adds, “Our work is about the betterment of people and human capital. Our country, the economy, and all of society improve when access to quality education increases.”  

This article originally appeared in the Fall 2016 issue of The Penn GSE Magazine.