August 18, 2022 • By Keith Giles
Professor Steve Milner at The Paul Merage School of Business grew up in Orange County and remembers simpler times. “When I first attended UCI in the mid-70s, the options were pretty limited when it came to food,” he says. “We only had the Commons and a little Italian restaurant that was across the street in what’s now a shopping center. So, if we felt like celebrating, it was always over a plate of spaghetti.”
Though his wife, Ellen and sister are UCI alumni, Milner only attended for about two years before transferring to UCLA. “Unlike most accountants, I didn’t major in accounting,” he says. “My major was in English, specializing in medieval and Elizabethan literature. But Chaucer was an accountant, so maybe it’s not that unusual if you think about it.”
Milner grew up in a middle-class family. His dad worked a union job, which provided for their family but didn’t qualify Milner or his sister for scholarships. “What we could do was work and put ourselves through school,” he says. “But you can’t do that anymore. Today, without a scholarship, it’s challenging for those in the middle class to get an education.”
His personal experience with the challenges of affording college propelled his desire to help others like his younger self. Financial support for low-income households and historically underserved communities remains of critical importance, but Milner understands the need to cast a wider net, encompassing more middle-class students and only increasing the range of support we can provide.
To help alleviate the rising costs of tuition, Steve and Ellen Milner decided to create a new scholarship through UCI. “This is our way of providing an opportunity for at least a few students to get a top-notch education without being saddled with onerous debt. Similarly, we can support students who otherwise might not even try to earn their degree,” says Steve.
As first-generation college graduates, opening the doors for today’s students is a meaningful endeavor. “Our parents didn’t have an education, but we were both able to go all the way and get our doctorates,” he says.
When asked about scholarship qualifications, Milner welcomingly responded, “I’ve never been hung up on GPA. It all comes down to their essay, to be honest. We want to see if students have a heart for accounting and if they have a passion for attending UCI. Finally—and I’m not sure if I want to tip anyone off or not—if they said they wanted to eventually give back to UCI, that would go a long way.”
The Stephen and Ellen Milner Endowed Fund begins in the Fall 2022 quarter at UCI and is currently accepting candidates for consideration.
“Everybody deserves a chance,” he says. “UCI gave us one and want to give others the same.”