Designer, Author, Entrepreneur
Class of 1976
Yes, best selling author Michael McMillan is from Sycamore, Illinois and attended Sycamore High School! Michael was born at Sycamore Hospital, what is now known as Kindred Hospital, the youngest of three children, to Alice and Bernard McMillan. He attended Southeast Elementary, Sycamore Junior High School and then Sycamore High School where he was active in extracurricular activities including band, wrestling, football and track and still managed to have time to work at local businesses; including Punk’s Firestone, DeKalb Ag and Tallitsch Ford.
Michael didn’t plan on attending college but during his senior year, his fellow classmate and girlfriend, Anne Carrigan, persuaded him to attend college. He went on to earn a BA degree in Visual Communications from Northern Illinois University. Ranked first in his class, Michael received various academic awards and recognitions, including the prestigious Jack Arends Talent scholarship!! While attending NIU, Michael worked in NIU’s Creative Services department, the VisCom Lab at the School of Art and Design and the Wurlitzer Company as a technical illustrator! All of this from a young man that didn’t think he was college material!
Michael and Anne married and spent the ‘80s growing their family along with founding a design-based marketing and branding firm where they created solutions for a diverse international clientele, including Fortune 500 corporations, technology startups, sports and music legends, and nonprofits. The Chicago Tribune wrote, “McMillan’s client roster ‘reads like the Who’s Who of Business.’” In addition to driving positive business results, Michael’s award-winning work has been recognized by major national and international design, marketing and advertising organizations.
The McMillans also worked with fellow SHS classmate, Mark Vancil (another 2016 Distinguished Alumni Inductee), to create Michael Jordan’s New York Times best-selling pictorial autobiography, Rare Air. This successful collaboration established a new niche in retail publishing and led to more award- winning coffee-table books, including Mario Andretti, The NBA at 50 and Diamond Dreams.
After 20 consecutive years of growth, the McMillans sold their business and Michael began sharing his insights and perspectives on creativity, change and innovation with audiences around the world. Michael has delivered motivational keynotes throughout the U.S., Canada, Central America, Europe and Asia. When the United Arab Emirates launched its national innnovation strategy, Michael was invited to Dubai to address this subject with UAE leaders, international investors and entrepreneurs.
A best-selling author, Michael’s current books include: Paper Airplane: A Lesson for Flying Outside the Box, The Power of Teamwork (co- authored with Blue Angels’ Scott Beare, and Pink Bat: Turning Problems Into Solutions.
In 2013, while consulting for a Fortune 1000 financial firm, its founder and CEO recruited Michael to be its Chief Marketing Officer. Charged with driving growth, Michael developed and deployed a marketing strategy that helped move Heartland Payment System’s (NYSE:HPY) stock price from $46 a share to $100+ within three years. Heartland was acquired in 2016 for $4.3 billion. Currently, Michael resides in Chicago and consults in the areas of design, marketing, branding, product development and sales. He also contributes his leadership to the Give Something Back Foundation, which provides college scholarships and mentoring to deserving kids from modest means.
Mostly, Michael strives to be an excellent husband, a devoted father to Mark, Paul and Sara and grandfather to Cole and Jude, and an environmentally responsible global citizen.
Sycamore High School congratulates Michael on his induction into the Distinguished Alumni Hall of Fame!
Mr. Michael McMillan – 2016 Inductee SHS Distinguished Alumni Hall of Fame