January 22, 2007
59, Number 16
January 22 , 2007
Going the distance
by kim urquhart
Emory’s chief record-keeper, University Registrar Tom Millen, is not afraid of commitment. The long-time Emory employee has worked in the Office of the Registrar for more than 30 years — “I like the philosophy that you work for a place for life,” he explains — and has been married for nearly as long. He is also a long-distance runner, with 10 marathons and five ultramarathons under his belt.
In fact, the only time Millen can recall not finishing something he put his mind to was an ultramarathon back in 1989. It was 24-hour race, involving hundreds of laps around a high-school track.
“I quit after 22 hours. I was getting a little achy, and thought maybe now would be a good time to go home before I injured myself,” Millen recalls. “But I got my 100 miles in, and I ran two extra just to make sure.”
When Millen is not running the show in the registrar’s office, implementing new initiatives and helping to foster staff development, he can be found running laps around the five-mile loop at Stone Mountain. He considers running to be “great therapy,” and particularly enjoys his routine of reading the newspaper before his weekend group runs to engage his running buddies in a friendly banter on current events.
“It’s like a moving cocktail party without the cocktails,” Millen says.
Millen’s family shares his passion. His daughter, a West Point honor graduate, runs marathons, and his son swims distance for the University of Virginia Cavaliers. Millen shares a touching story about one Father’s Day when his son swam the marathon distance in the pool in honor of his dad.
“It took him nine hours to swim the 26.2 miles,” Millen says. “My wife and I took turns walking the length of the pool as he swam to cheer him on.”
He lists his wife, his children and his career as his three greatest accomplishments. “It’s been a good life,” he says.
Millen credits his predecessor, former University Registrar Chuck Nicolaysen, as the inspiration for nearly a lifetime of service at Emory. Millen first met Nicolaysen as an undergraduate studying math and physics at Coe College in Iowa.
Because Coe was a small school, Nicolaysen was Millen’s track and cross-country coach, math and computer science professor and faculty advisor, as well as his boss. Nicolaysen also served as the Coe College registrar before being hired by Emory to computerize its records office. When an opening arose at Emory, Nicolaysen asked Millen to join him in Atlanta as assistant registrar.
Since Nicolaysen’s retirement last year, Millen has carried on the legacy of his friend and mentor. “I owe him everything,” Millen says.
Millen is esteemed for his enthusiasm, humor and professionalism. His colleague, Vice Provost Santa J. Ono, said Millen is an asset to Emory.
“He is at the top of his trade, with impeccable integrity and a refreshing sense of humor,” he said.
These qualities earned Millen the 1996 Emory Award of Distinction, which adorns the wall of his office. On another wall, a framed blue and gold Emory T-shirt is emblazoned with the words “1981 Intramural Sports Champion.”
“I went to the intramural track meet expecting to win the mile,” Millen remembers. “I came in second, but I won the half mile. I guess the college kids were tired,” he adds with a grin.
Millen never tires of his work at Emory.
“The job is never done; there is always something more that needs doing,” he says, particularly during this time of year as students return for spring semester.
“Every end and beginning of the semester is like a peak,” he says. “Grades are coming in and being processed, transcripts are going out as graduates apply for jobs, plus you’re ramping up for the new admissions class of the next semester.”
Emory’s student enrollment team is considered one of the most innovative in the country, thanks in part to Millen’s efforts in the registrar’s office. But Millen is quick to acknowledge the contributions and hard work of his staff.
“They make the magic happen,” he says. He also emphasizes the collaborative nature of Emory’s entire enrollment services team, saying: “It’s not a ‘me’ thing; it’s a ‘we’ thing.”