Lewis C. Solmon, the first president of the Milken Institute, an economic think tank based in Santa Monica, who later served as president of the Milken Family Foundation’s National Institute for Excellence in Teaching, has died. He was 65.

Solmon, who received his Ph.D. in economics from the University of Chicago, applied his talents for research and analysis to a career dedicated to education reform in schools across the nation, according to the Milken Family Foundation.

Solmon was president of the Santa Monica-based National Institute for Excellence in Teaching, a nonprofit organization launched in 2005 to operate the Teacher Advancement Program, described a comprehensive system to revitalize the American teaching profession and close achievement gaps.

Solmon helped develop the program as executive vice president for education at the Milken Family Foundation.

In 1974, Solmon joined UCLA as executive officer of the Higher Education Research Institute. From 1985 to 1991, he was dean of the Graduate School of Education at UCLA, where he continued as professor emeritus.

Solmon was the founding president of the Milken Institute before joining the Milken Family Foundation in 1997 to focus on teacher quality, evaluation, performance-based compensation and other key issues related to education.

“Lew never wavered in his steadfast dedication and commitment to the pursuit of a high-quality education for all students,” said Lowell Milken, chairman of the Milken Family Foundation and founder of the Teacher Advancement Program. “His expertise was complemented by his leadership and coalition building that brought together educators, union leaders, policymakers, foundations and corporations, all in the interest of improving educational opportunities for teachers and students.”

Solmon advised numerous governors and state superintendents of instruction in the area of teacher quality. At the time of his death, he served on the advisory boards of Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger’s Committee on Education Excellence and the National Council on Teacher Quality.

He served as a board member of the Center for Education Reform in Washington, D.C., the Milken Family Foundation, and BASIS Charter School in Tucson.

Solmon was also president of Santa Monica-based Human Resources Policy Corporation.

He authored more than two dozen books and monographs, and 75 articles in scholarly and professional journals on such topics as teacher quality, school reform, learning technology, demographics of higher education, and the links between education, work and job creation.

Solmon is survived by his wife of 42 years, Vicki; daughter Kira and son-in-law Craig Cooper; son Matt Solmon and daughter-in-law Elizabeth; and grandchildren Charlie, Katie and Leo Cooper, Evan Solmon, D.J. Smith and Tommy Edwards. His parents are Edward (deceased) and Eve Solmon of Toronto, Canada, and brother Fred and sister-in-law Cheryl Solmon also of Toronto.

Memorial services for Solmon were held Thursday, December 20th, at the Milken Family Foundation.

The family says that in lieu of flowers, donations may be made to the National Institute for Excellence in Teaching, 1250 Fourth St., Santa Monica 90401.