2011 Award Recipients

Marilyn McMillan

Marilyn A. McMillan
For demonstrating visionary leadership, embracing innovation, and transforming higher education IT in times of uncertainty

Vice President for Information Technology and Chief Information Technology Officer
New York University

This year, EDUCAUSE has granted its highest honor, the Leadership Award, to Marilyn McMillan, vice president for information technology and chief information technology officer at New York University, for her efforts in leading the educational community forward in information technology and for her service to higher education.

Marilyn’s experience in the educational community spans three decades in various leadership posts including MIT and Stanford University. She demonstrated visionary leadership at each institution she has served. Beyond her leadership, colleagues note how she leads through empowering teams. According to Diana Oblinger, “If you listen to those who have worked with Marilyn, they emphasize how she works with others. She draws people together. She enables people to work across organizational lines. She celebrates the people she works with. It isn’t about Marilyn—it’s about how she empowers those around her. It is a unique skill.”

Marilyn was a leading force for transforming information technology at MIT, where she was able to maintain the existing operation while moving to a new organizational model. She has been instrumental in expanding NYU’s technology from a regional operation to a global network. NYU’s Global Network University demonstrates her commitment not only to global initiatives but also to collaboration and partnership.

Throughout her career, Marilyn has been an innovator, eager to embrace technological advances like Google Apps for Education services, which NYU rolled out to the entire community in May 2011, resulting in the migration of over 110,000 users. NYU faculty and administrators have leveraged numerous advances in administrative computing systems to enhance students’ educational experience.

Marilyn has actively participated in EDUCAUSE by serving on the board of directors, as an EDUCAUSE Institute faculty member, and on numerous committees, and by contributing to publications and conferences.

True leadership is most clearly evident in a time of stress and uncertainty. After the 9/11 attacks, Marilyn helped NYU reestablish and maintain critical communications within and beyond the university community. Her efforts in organizing her staff, contacting displaced students, facilitating communications between students and families, and directing all to emergency services did much to restore order and confidence in the midst of chaos. 

Marilyn has been one of the foremost leaders in the profession, not just because of what she has accomplished but how she has worked with and mentored others. She is a gifted communicator, a valued mentor, and a respected administrator. Marilyn’s unwavering commitment to broadening the use of technology and her collaborative, engaging style make her the ideal recipient for this year’s award.

This award is sponsored by Ellucian, An EDUCAUSE Platinum Partner.

Robyn Render

Robyn M. Render (posthumous)
For advancing collaborative projects that serve the greater good, inspiring others, and demonstrating a true passion for higher education IT

Former Vice Chancellor for Information Technology and iNtegrate Project Director
Nevada System of Higher Education

This year, EDUCAUSE has posthumously granted its highest honor, the Leadership Award, to Robyn M. Render, former vice chancellor for information technology and iNtegrate project director at the Nevada System of Higher Education (NSHE). EDUCAUSE recognizes Robyn for her career in higher education information technology and her impact on the profession. She was a selfless and dedicated leader who championed IT professional development.

An exemplary leader with a unique ability to get people to embrace new approaches, Robyn spurred several technology initiatives and guided them from concept to completion. Her impact reached beyond the institutions she served to the broader community.

Robyn passed away in September 2010 after a long battle with cancer, but her collaborative style, inspirational tone, and visionary directions are celebrated and remembered.

Before assuming her roles at NSHE, Robyn held several IT management positions including vice president for information resources and CIO at the University of North Carolina, chief information officer at North Carolina Central University, and assistant vice president and director of the Center for Information Technology Services (CITS) at the University of Cincinnati. While at NSHE, she brought together governance groups and used her inclusive style to manage the upgrade of the university’s system-wide ERP, which resulted in a reengineered and unified set of information systems for the entire system. Robyn also realigned the focus of the central computing services and started strategic planning for the entity.

During her 13-year tenure at the University of Cincinnati, Robyn led a university-wide IT strategy study, which resulted in the university’s current IT governance structure; upgraded the university’s financial information system; played a key role in the efforts that resulted in the replacement of its student information system; and helped advance library automation.

In her time at UNC, she earned high marks from every major university constituency for her vast technical knowledge, her ability to work effectively with diverse groups and viewpoints, and her deep understanding of the growing potential of IT in teaching and learning. Molly Broad, former president of UNC and current president of the American Council on Education, remarked that “Robyn was gifted in her ability to translate information technology in terms that could breathe life into an idea… Her colleagues benefitted from her keen insight, calm demeanor, and visionary direction. She always strove to achieve goals that would be lasting and serve the greater good, and she left a strong legacy of outstanding leadership.” 

Robyn was a trusted, inspirational leader who is revered by her peers and other higher education IT leaders. She served on several boards and committees including as chair and secretary of the EDUCAUSE Board of Directors and as a founding co-director of the Hawkins Leadership Roundtable, which is dedicated to mentoring new and aspiring CIOs. She also served on the Centre Act Board of Directors (as chair), on the Global Electronics Board of Directors, on the ACUTA Higher Education Advisory Council, and on the MCNC Advisory Council.

“All of us who worked with Robyn admired her dedication to the profession. But the deepest impressions were always of her warmth and sense of humor. She was a real professional and a very real person. She changed those around her for the better,” said EDUCAUSE President Diana Oblinger.

Robyn’s lifetime of caring and sharing continues to enrich the academic world she nurtured and cherished.

This award is sponsored by Ellucian, An EDUCAUSE Platinum Partner.