Frances Hilliard Millican, the first woman to ever hold the honor of being UCF’s First Lady, died Monday from injuries she suffered while falling in her Orlando home two days earlier. She was 82.
Her husband, Dr. Charles Millican, 93, reportedly fell with her as she was helping him get out of bed, and remained hospitalized in stable condition Monday at Orlando Regional Medical Center.
Current UCF President John C. Hitt, a close friend of the Millicans, expressed his sorrow in a statement.
“The entire UCF family mourns the loss of our first First Lady, Frances Millican. She brought grace, class and style to everything she touched,” UCF President John Hitt said. “UCF has lost an icon, and Martha and I have lost a cherished friend. Our thoughts and prayers are with Charlie and their family.”
Charles and Frances met while at Union University in Jackson, Tenn., and were married for 64 years, according to UCF spokesman Grant Heston. Together, he said, the pair was known as UCF’s “first couple” and devoted themselves to supporting the university for more than 40 years.
Most current UCF students have never met the Millicans, but each has benefited from their work. The two never had children, but instead are said to have focused on building the university with “parental devotion.”
“They both viewed establishing this university as their life’s work,” UCF Board of Trustee Chair Rick Walsh told the Sentinel, adding that UCF “was truly the love of their life.”
The couple moved to Orlando in 1965, after Charles Millican was chosen by lawmakers to build the school from scratch. The newly appointed president started out with just a $75,000 budget and worked out of an office above a downtown Orlando drugstore.
At the time, UCF was called Florida Technological University, and trained aspiring aerospace engineers and computer programmers. Charles Millican is credited with designing the campus with concentric circles, but he did more than build an infrastructure — he built tradition. Millican chose UCF’s motto, “Reach for the Stars,” as well as the Pegasus for the school seal.
During this year’s Homecoming week, a statute of him was erected outside the UCF administration building bearing his name, and more than 300 showed up in his honor at the dedication.Even though the bronze statute was paid for by alumni donations, Millican reportedly was initially embarrassed by the idea and called it an extravagant expense. It was his wife who convinced him to accept the tribute, according to the Sentinel, and the couple attended the dedication.
Much had changed at UCF from the first time he and his wife stepped foot on it, when it was 1,200 acres of brush and dirt roads. About 40 years later, as the Millicans stood, surrounded by colleagues, upon the third largest university in the nation, UCF’s first president put it all into perspective.
“I feel highly honored and deeply, deeply grateful,” Charles Millican said. “I thank you very much for making my impossible dream about this university come to pass. This statue says something very simple to all of us, and it is to ‘reach for the stars.’”
And judging from what UCF alumnus Roger Pynn says, it will be especially hard for Millican to say goodbye to the woman who helped him — and the University of Central Florida — reach such great heights.
“No man has ever had as loving and supportive a partner as Frances,” Pynn said. “He would always say there was no way he could have done what he did without her.”
Millican’s funeral arrangements have not yet been made, but KnightNews.com will keep in touch with UCF officials to bring updates on those plans when they are made.