A longtime member of the South Orange County Community College District Board of Trustees has earned the county’s highly regarded Marian Bergeson Award.
Marcia Milchiker, who has been on the board for nearly 32 years — and whose lengthy resume includes everything from public service to biology research — was presented with the accolade by the Orange County School Boards Association on May 3 at the Irvine Marriott.
The Marian Bergeson Award was established in 1974 to recognize school board members who promote and enhance public education through their leadership and community service. Its namesake, the late Marian Bergeson, was a legendary political figure, serving with the California State Assembly, the California State Senate and the Orange County Board of Supervisors. She was also California’s Secretary of Education in the late ’90s.
“Marian Bergeson was a true inspiration, having dedicated her career to public service and education, and I am honored and humbled to have been named the recipient of this award in her name,” Milchiker said. “I am especially honored that I was nominated unanimously by my fellow board members and selected by my peers from the school and college boards in Orange County.
A trustee since 1985, Milchiker has served as president, vice-president and clerk of the South Orange County Community College District, which administers Saddleback College in Mission Viejo, Irvine Valley College and the Advanced Technology and Education Park in Tustin. In addition, she’s a 21-year volunteer with the Orange County School Boards Association and a founder of both the Orange County Community College Legislative Task Force and the Orange County Chapter of the California Elected Women’s Association for Education and Research, serving three terms as president.
She’s also been involved with the American Association of University Women, logging two terms as its president while helping secure more than $1 million in annual scholarships for both Irvine Valley College and Saddleback College students.
As a research biologist and biology professor, Milchiker directed programs at the Southwestern Medical Group and the Cleveland Clinic Hospital in Ohio. And she leveraged her background to personally perform studies that convinced state legislators of the value of Saddleback College’s Emeritus Institute classes to older adults. She was subsequently asked to serve on the UC Irvine Community Advisory Board for the Center for the Neurobiology of Learning and Memory.
All the while, her commitment to the community college district’s board has been unwavering. Colleagues say she learned accounting to be able to oversee the budget, and has an unblemished attendance record when it comes to board meetings, foundation events, scholarship ceremonies, commencements and other signature events.
“I am so proud to be a trustee for our two excellent colleges and love working with our students, faculty, staff and administrators,” she said. “Education has always been central to my career, and my lifelong goal is to make educational programs accessible for students of all ages.”
In a statement, board President Timothy Jemal said Milchiker “has worked tirelessly for our students” and provided leadership that “has helped our colleges grow, increasing the number of programs offered, degrees earned and transfers to four-year colleges and universities.”
“Her enthusiasm is admirable and she is most deserving of this honor,” he said.
Milchiker has a bachelor’s degree in biology from Ohio State University and a master’s degree in biology from Cleveland State University. In 2007 she added an associate degree in Spanish from Saddleback to help tutor bilingual students.
“After shaking thousands of students’ hands at our commencement ceremonies, I finally got to shake my own hand,” she quipped via email.