Continuing Research

Sylvia R. McMillan, Ph.D.

Sylvia Jessie Ross McMillan, Ph.D. was the first African American female Executive Director of the Anne Arundel County, Maryland Community Action Agency, from 1968 to 1975. McMillan was also one of three founders and incorporators of this agency.

Sylvia R. McMillan, Ph.D.

Sylvia R. McMillan, Ph.D.

The Agency was originally established as the Anne Arundel County Economic Opportunity Committee, Inc. which was later renamed the Anne County Community Action Agency. The organization was founded in 1965, and Dr. McMillan served as the second executive director and its first female director, three years after its founding. Under her leadership, the staff of the agency grew from 18 to more than 200, operating an extensive and comprehensive array of programs in the areas of health, rural housing and transportation, senior citizen programs, training, youth development, head start, and employment and minority business development.

Sylvia was born in Kansas City, Kansas on January 8, 1920. She obtained her Bachelor’s degree in Economics and Education from the University of Minnesota, as well as two master’s degrees, one from the University of Maryland and the other from Azusa Pacific College. Her Doctor of Philosophy degree was in clinical psychology from the Fielding Institute in Santa Barbara, California.

McMillan began her work career with the state of Maryland in welfare and home extension services. Later she founded the Community Action Agency, which she led for nearly a decade. The last phase of her work career was as a licensed psychologist in Washington, D.C., California, and Maryland. She also operated a private practice and held instructor and assistant professorships and a director-level position in alcoholism treatment, rehabilitation, and related clinical services at California State University, Pasadena Community Hospital in California, Howard University, and at the College of the Virgin Islands.

McMillan was a trailblazer in real estate development. In 1968 she founded and incorporated South County Residential Projects, Inc. and was a principal owner and developer of the Sylmac community in 1961, as well as the Twin Hill community.

In 1974, Representative to Congress, Marjorie S. Holt, nominated McMillan for the 1974 National Council of Women’s Woman of Conscience award. She selected McMillan for “her tireless efforts to seek out the needs of the poor and disadvantaged in her community and effectively work for avenues through which they can gain hope, self-respect, and realization of their true potential.”

McMillan was a charter member of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority in 1947 and was elected Basileus. Her other community involvements included the Banneker-Douglass Museum Foundation and the Occupational Industrial Center (OIC) board memberships. She was also a member of St. Philip’s Episcopal Church, where she held various leadership roles.

McMillan was married to Caldwell McMillan Sr., and at her passing in 1989, she was survived by two children and five grandchildren. One of her long-term friends identified her as being a person with vision and dreams; a person who possessed the creativity and tenacity to mold those dreams into reality.

Audio: Sylvia R. McMillan

Continuing Research Archives

Local African American Female Pioneers, Volume I Archives

Local African American Female Pioneers, Volume II Archives

Local African American Female Pioneers, Volume III Archives

Local African American Female Pioneers, Volume IV Archives