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Tyrone Mills recognized for dedication to campus safety

Ty Mills received the Distinguished Service to the University award at the 2010 Founders Day gala in March. Photo: Wayne Armstrong

Tyrone Mills, associate director for campus safety, is well-known across the University of Denver campus. Nearly 40 years of employment with one institution will get you that. But there was a time when Mills was so well-known that he could enter a hockey game and students would start shouting his name en masse: “TY! MILLS! TY! MILLS!”

And it was not a friendly chant.

“They hated me!” he says, laughing. “I was the top ticket-writer on campus.”

Mills received the Distinguished Service to the University award at the 2010 Founders Day gala in March. Since he was hired as a security officer in 1972, Mills has held nearly every position in the campus safety department, including 18 years as its director. In those four decades, he has served five chancellors and has seen the annual car registration fee climb from $2 to more than $100.

He also has seen his share of tragedies and world-class events.

Mills remembers 1985, when an arsonist was igniting fires at fraternity houses on many of Colorado’s college campuses. DU suffered through three blazes, and Mills called the biggest meeting he has ever had to lead.

“There was a mob mentality on campus,” he recalls. “People were saying they would take up arms and patrol campus themselves. I was the only person to stand up in front of the group, and I had to calm them down.” Mills’ ability to calm others is one of his strengths, according to Assistant Director of Campus Safety Michael Holt.

“One of the things about Ty, whatever the challenge is, whatever comes up, and especially in really difficult situations, he is very cool and calm,” Holt says. “In fact, he’s the person that I’ve tried to pattern my professional life after.”

Mills is credited with many safety advancements at DU, including the Rape Aggression and Defense program, emergency “blue light” telephones and the nighttime shuttle. He’s received more late-night phone calls than he can count, and he admits that some of them break his heart.

On the flip side, Mills also has shaken hands with President Barack Obama and coordinated security for President Bill Clinton, Secretary General of the United Nations Kurt Waldheim and former U.S. Secretary of State Henry Kissinger.

“You have to have a commitment to this job,” Mills says. “There are a lot of ups and downs in police work. Some things can cut you to the ground and others leave you happy for days, but you learn how to accept all the areas of the job.”

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