The earliest and most prestigious recognition offered by APTA for achievement is the Mary McMillan Lecture Award, which was established in 1962 by the Board of Directors in memory of the association’s beloved first president and physical therapy trailblazer. Mildred O. Elson delivered the first lecture in 1964, and Helen J. Hislop, editor of Physical Therapy, turned Elson’s memorable remarks, “The Legacy of Mary McMillan,” into a booklet that was broadly used in schools and clinics to introduce students to the history of the profession.
Since then, the McMillan Lecture has been published in Physical Therapy every year it was delivered. The lecture’s stated purpose is to acknowledge and honor an APTA member who has made a distinguished contribution to the profession in administration, education, patient care, or research. Recipients delivered the lecture at the association’s annual conference. Except for the years 1970, 1974, 1988, 1994, 1995, and 1997, which coincided with the WCPT World Congress and other special circumstances, the award has been conferred annually since Elson’s 1964 address. In 1984, Eugene Michels became the first man to deliver the McMillan Lecture. Whether remembered as a call to action or a call to task, the lectures — and lecturers — often would be noted for their inspiration and provocation.