Claud Erickson Distinguished Alumni Award

2021 - Michael K.J. Milligan, PhD, PE, CAE

Photo of Michael K.J. MilliganMichael K.J. Milligan, PhD, PE, CAE, is the recipient of the 2021 Claud R. Erickson Distinguished Alumni Award - the highest honor presented to an alumnus by the MSU College of Engineering. It recognizes professional accomplishment, volunteer service, and distinguished service to the college and the engineering profession.

Milligan is executive director and chief executive officer of ABET, a nonprofit organization that accredits more than 4,300 college and university programs in 41 countries in the disciplines of applied and natural science, computing, engineering, and engineering technology. Each year, these programs prepare over 175,000 students to enter the global workforce.

Milligan leads a full-time staff headquartered in Baltimore, Maryland, that supports the operations of more than 2,000 volunteer experts from 35 professional and technical societies. He is responsible for executing ABET’s strategic vision, administration and global operations and reports directly to the president, ABET Board of Directors. Milligan serves on several international advisory boards and executive committees focused on STEM education.

Prior to joining ABET, Milligan held various leadership positions in government and academia. Milligan was a systems director at the Aerospace Corporation, leading a team at the NASA Goddard Space Flight Center developing the next generation of environmental satellites for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).

He also served 24 years as a career U.S. Air Force officer working in the areas of operations, space communications, international research and development, education and technology acquisition. He served six years as an associate professor and deputy department head in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering at the USAF Academy, Colorado. He finished his Air Force career as the deputy commander of the European Office of Aerospace Research and Development in London, United Kingdom.

From 1979-83, Milligan attended Michigan State University and earned a bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering in 1983. While at MSU, he participated in the International Studies Abroad program at the University of London, United Kingdom, and was a passionate MSU Ice Hockey fan.

His academic achievements are:

  • Ph.D., Electrical Engineering (Computer Architecture), University of Texas at Austin, 1996 Dissertation: "A Memory Architecture to Support Real-Time Computer Systems"
  • M.S., Electrical Engineering (Digital Design), University of Massachusetts at Lowell, 1989
  • M.B.A., Western New England University, 1987
  • B.S., Electrical Engineering, Michigan State University, 1983
  • Air War College, Maxwell Air Force Base, Alabama, 2004
  • Air Command and Staff College, Maxwell Air Force Base, Alabama, 1997
  • Squadron Officer School, Maxwell Air Force Base, Alabama, 1988

Milligan is a senior member of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE), and a member of both the Tau Beta Pi Engineering Honor Society and IEEE Eta Kappa Nu Electrical Engineering Honor Society. He is a registered Professional Engineer (PE) in Colorado and Maryland and a Certified Association Executive (CAE).

Milligan is passionate about supporting his local community through volunteer activities. Over the past few years, he led the construction of a native plant boardwalk nature path and raised bed gardens for two elementary schools supporting their environmental science programs, landscaped the new Gold Star Family Memorial in Severna Park, Maryland, which recognizes four fallen service members, and helped plant numerous trees for Bluewater Baltimore.

He enjoys international travel, skiing, cycling, woodworking, and any project that improves natural habitats for native plants and animals.

He and his wife, Alison, a naturalist and retired electrical engineer, live in Severna Park, Maryland. They have three sons: Matthew, Kyle, and Austin.

About the Award

Dean Lawrence Wayne Von Tersch established the Claud R. Erickson Distinguished Alumni Award in 1982. Claud Erickson, for whom the award was named, was the first recipient. Since then, it has been given annually to a College of Engineering graduate with a minimum of 15 years’ professional experience who has attained the highest level of professional accomplishment; provided distinguished and meritorious service to the College of Engineering and the engineering profession; and engaged in voluntary service at the local, state, national, and/or international level.

Nomination Form (.doc)

Past Recipients

Follow this link to see the complete list of past recipients:

Claud Erickson, born in Manistee, Michigan, lived from 1900 to 1993. He had to help support his family during high school and took a full-time job immediately after graduation. At the urging of work associates who recognized his talents, Claud began college, but it was a constant financial struggle. At times, faculty members chipped in to keep him in school.

Claud ultimately received four engineering degrees from MSU, beginning with a bachelor of science in 1922. He later earned degrees in mechanical (1927), electrical (1933), and civil engineering (1934) and held a consulting professional engineer's license. He also studied law and was qualified to practice before the United States Supreme Court.

Claud was the first member of Lambda Chi Alpha, chartered in 1922 as the second fraternity at MSU; it now has well over 2,200 members.

He became the director and general manager of the Lansing Board of Water and Light and spent more than 50 years making the utility a strong, progressive force in the Lansing area. He was a nationally respected figure in public works, and in 1971 the Board named a new power plant in Delta Township after him.

Community activism was a way of life for Claud. He was the Ingham County chairman of the U.S. Treasury Savings Bond Drive for 50 years, beginning in 1941. He was honored in 1991 at the age of 91 by the U.S. Treasury Department for his 50 years of patriotic volunteer service. He was the only person in the United States known to have directed a local drive continuously since the program began during World War II.

He was a delegate to the Michigan Constitutional Convention, chairman of the Ingham County American Red Cross, and a trustee of St. Lawrence Hospital. He served at various times as president of the Lansing Rotary Club, the City Club of Lansing, the American Public Power Association, the Michigan Engineering Society, and the Greater Lansing Area Safety Council.

He was an avid stamp collector and was considered one of the nation's top authorities on electric-powered vehicles. He admired the simplicity of an electric car. He said, "It has only eight moving parts, and four of those are wheels."

Always maintaining close ties with MSU, Claud served on the MSU Foundation's first board of directors. He was asked by President John A. Hannah to oversee the construction of the Alumni Chapel. He also supervised the completion of 7,000 married-student housing units in just five months to accommodate U.S. servicemen returning to campus after World War II.

Claud always attended the spring commencement exercises of MSU's College of Engineering and the initiation ceremonies of the Chi Epsilon civil engineering honor society, and he kept close tabs on each alumnus who won the Claud R. Erickson Award.

When asked by President Hannah at one point, "Why do MSU alumni come back to campus year after year?" he responded, "Because they love the university that offered them the hand of friendship and the open door of opportunity."