Phillip L. Sirotkin Award - MHEC's Highest Award

2017 Application | Sirotkin Award Criteria | History of Recipients 

Dr. Phillip L. Sirotkin (1923‐2007) was the founding father and senior adviser of the Midwestern Higher Education Compact (MHEC). Sirotkin’s skill at developing collaborative arrangements among state governments and higher education institutions was tapped to help create and establish a higher education compact among 12 states in the Midwest, the only section of the country that did not have a regional agreement at that time. After working with state officials to found the Midwestern Higher Education Compact in the 1990s, Sirotkin served several years as a senior adviser to the commission.

Sirotkin also served as the longtime executive director of MHEC’s sister compact the Boulder‐based Western Interstate Commission for Higher Education (WICHE). He guided WICHE for 13 years – 1976 to 1989 – during which time the 15‐state higher education organization created and extended cost‐effective educational programs and opportunities that benefit students and public and private colleges and universities throughout the West.

Sirotkin came to WICHE as its executive director from the State University of New York at Albany where he was executive vice president and vice president for academic affairs between 1971 and 1976.

He moved into higher education administration after several positions in the mental health field. He was with the National Institute of Mental Health from 1964 to 1971, serving as NIMH associate director during his last four years there.

Earlier, he was executive assistant to the director of the California Department of Mental Hygiene from 1960‐1963, and he helped to establish the mental health training and research program at WICHE between 1957 and 1960.

Sirotkin received his bachelor’s degree from Wayne State University (MI) in 1945, and his master’s degree and doctorate in political science and constitutional law from the University of Chicago between 1947 and 1951. He was an instructor and assistant professor of political science at Wellesley College between 1950 and 1957 when he joined WICHE for the first time to help develop its mental health education program.

During World War II, he served in Army intelligence between 1943 and 1946 when he became fluent in the Russian language. 

Sirotkin, who was born in Moline, Illinois on August 2, 1923, had a consuming passion for teaching and education, politics, baseball, and literature.


2017 Application

Download the application. Completed applications are due to Pam Schutt, director of state relations, by Friday, September 29, 2017.


Sirotkin Award Criteria

  • Exemplary leadership service to the Midwestern Higher Education Compact
  • Passion for postsecondary education
  • Innovation and creation of ideas that advance collaboration and cooperation in education
  • Creation of MHEC programs and services
  • Years of service to MHEC
  • Securing participation in MHEC programs and services
  • Building regional partnerships for effective and efficient access to, and quality of higher education in the states and in the Midwest
  • Promoting and identifying opportunities to increase visibility for MHEC within states, regionally and nationally

History of Recipients

1999 – Dr. Phillip Sirotkin (CO), MHEC Founding Father and Senior Adviser
2001 – Dr. William Sederburg (MI), First Chair of the MHEC Commission
2007 – Dr. David Murphy (MN), MHEC President Emeritus
2009 – Sen. Lana Oleen (KS), Past MHEC Chair and Interim MHEC President
2010 – Rep. Lyndon Carlson (MN), MHEC Commissioner, Commissioner Alternate, and Past MHEC Chair
2011 – Dr. William Napier (OH), MHEC Commissioner and past MHEC Chair
2012 – Dr. Gerald Brouder (MO), former MHEC Commissioner
2013 – Dr. Randolph Ferlic (NE), MHEC Commissioner and past MHEC Chair
2014 - Mr. Robert N. Downer (IA), MHEC Commissioner and past MHEC Chair
2016 - Sen. Sheila Harsdorf (WI), MHEC Commissioner and past MHEC Chair
2017 - Dr. Rolf Wegenke (WI), MHEC Commissioner