History of the Center

The Lowell Milken Center for Unsung Heroes represents the vision and collaboration of three people whose commitment to excellence in education has impacted thousands of lives: Founder Lowell Milken, Executive Director Norm Conard and Program Director Megan Felt.

Lowell-Milken-and-Norm-Conard

Lowell Milken (left) and Norm Conard.

International businessman and philanthropist Lowell Milken has been a pioneer in education reform for nearly three decades, having established the Milken National Educator Awards to reward excellence in teaching and TAP: The System for Teacher and Student Advancement, a comprehensive initiative for advancing educator effectiveness that offers teachers powerful opportunities for career advancement, professional development, educator evaluation and performance-based compensation. In 1992, Lowell met educator Norm Conard of Uniontown High School in Kansas (retired from the classroom in 2007) when presenting him with a $25,000 Milken Educator Award. Over the years, Norm has engaged thousands of students in outstanding history projects that incorporate performing arts, multimedia, and video production. One of those students reached was Megan Felt.

In 1999, Megan, then a freshman in Norm’s Uniontown High history class, led her peers in the creation of a project that told the story of Irena Sendler, a Polish Catholic social worker who rescued 2,500 Jewish children from the Warsaw Ghetto during World War II. The students wrote a play about Sendler called Life in a Jar, which has since been performed over 350 times throughout the U.S. and in Europe. Upon discovering that Sendler was still alive and living in Poland, the Uniontown students and Norm contacted and visited her. Since then, they have worked tirelessly to spread Sendler’s story, which led to her nomination in 2007 for the Nobel Peace Prize.

Lowell Milken with the cast of Life in a Jar.

Lowell Milken with the cast of Life in a Jar.

As Lowell offered his support for the Life in a Jar project, sponsoring performances of the play in Los Angeles and creating an educational DVD based on the project, he and Norm began discussing how they could further promote such educational projects that bring to light Unsung Heroes like Irena Sendler. Norm and his high school students collaborated on a proposal for an international nonprofit organization devoted to developing projects that teach respect and understanding. In April 2007, the Lowell Milken Center for Unsung Heroes was formally established as an initiative of the Lowell Milken Family Foundation.

It was decided that the Center’s ideal location would be the heart of Kansas, where several of the award-winning projects originated. In August 2007, the Center opened its offices in Fort Scott, 17 miles east of Uniontown, under the leadership of Norm and Megan, a former teacher and student duo who together embody the power of education. Nearly 5,000 donors have made it possible to reach hundreds of thousands of students and educators and promote the values demonstrated by Unsung Heroes. Today, the Center continues to stand as a testament to the power of young people and adults alike to create positive change by promoting respect and understanding.