Spartanburg, S.C.—Roger Milliken, former CEO and chairman Milliken & Co., died Thursday in Spartanburg. Milliken ran his family’s company for almost 60 years, as president from 1947 to 1983, chairman and CEO from 1983 to 2003, and chairman until his death.
The roots of Milliken & Co., go back to the Deering Milliken Company, a small textile company co-founded by his grandfather, Seth Milliken, in Portland, Maine, in 1865. Today Milliken & Co. is the largest privately-held textile and chemical manufacturing firm in the world, with 45 manufacturing facilities in seven countries. The firm has approximately 9,000 employees and over 2,000 patents it has developed over the years.
Milliken attended Yale University, where he studied French history and graduated in 1937. He was a well-known philanthropist and steward of the environment. In 1999, he established the Noble Tree Foundation to encourage the planting of enduring and beautiful trees, particularly in rundown or overlooked areas of the Greenville-Spartanburg area. In 2004, he received the Frederick Law Olmsted Award, one of the highest honors bestowed by the National Arbor Day Foundation. He helped the entire Wofford College campus be declared a National Arboretum, later named for him.
The science center at the Spartanburg College also sports his name.
Textile World magazine named him its “leader of the century” in 1999. He was inducted into the Junior Achievement U.S. Business Hall of Fame in 2000. Also that year, he donated $5 millon of the $14.5 million needed to construct the Milliken Science Center, which opened on the campus of Wofford College in 2001.
His Pursuit of Excellence process, in which all Milliken associates are encouraged to comment on how quality might be achieved, is featured in the book A Passion for Excellence, co-authored by Tom Peters.
Milliken was also a former director of Citicorp, Arthur D. Little, Inc., Mercantile Stores, Inc., W. R. Grace & Company, and Westinghouse Electric Corporation. He was inducted into the National Business Hall of Fame on April 18, 1985.