Brian C. Mitchell

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Brian C. Mitchell
Brian C Mitchell.jpg
Bucknell University
Term 2004 – 2010
Predecessor Steffen H. Rogers
Born 1953 (age 60–61)
Lowell, Massachusetts
Alma mater University of Rochester Merrimack College
Profession Professor
Spouse Maryjane Murphy Mitchell
Children Jeffrey and Patrick

Brian Christopher Mitchell (born 1953)[1] is the former president of Bucknell University, serving from 2004 until 2010.[2] From 1998 through 2004, he served as president of Washington & Jefferson College. He is a nationally recognized expert in higher education, especially on private higher education.

Mitchell has served as chairman of the Pennsylvania Selection Committee for the Rhodes Scholarships and is a past president of the National Association of Independent College and University State Executives.[3] He is a member of the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission and is a former member of the boards of National Association of Independent Colleges and Universities, the Pennsylvania Humanities Council, and National History Day.[3]

Education and Personal History[edit]

A native of Lowell, Massachusetts, Mitchell graduated from Keith Academy and from Merrimack College in 1974. He received his Ph.D from the University of Rochester, and is an expert in 19th century urban, ethnic, and labor history.[3] He wrote The Paddy Camps: The Irish of Lowell, 1821–1861, a critically acclaimed book examining those fields.[3] As a professor, he chaired the history department at Anna Maria College and taught at George Mason University, the University of Massachusetts Lowell, Bentley College, Lesley College, New Hampshire College, and the University of Rochester. He was awarded the Haskell Award for Distinguished Teaching in the Humanities from Lowell and the Albert J. Beveridge Grant for Research in American History from the American Historical Association.[3]


Mitchell worked as a program officer in the Division of State Programs of the National Endowment for the Humanities and became president of the Council of Independent Colleges and Universities of Pennsylvania (CICU) in 1991.[3] In that position, Mitchell was instrumental in getting House Bill 55 of 1997, the Institutions of Purely Public Charity Act, unanimously passed in the Pennsylvania State House and the State Senate.[4] The bill provided uniform standards for determining the tax-exempt eligibility for all nonprofits, especially private colleges.[4] This legislation was passed in response to Washington, Pennsylvania's 1993 lawsuit against Washington & Jefferson College challenging the college’s tax-exempt status.[4] The bill clarified the law and has had a long-term impact on other nonprofits besides private colleges, including hospitals, nursing homes, and public universities.[4]

Washington & Jefferson College[edit]

Upon assuming the presidency of Washington and Jefferson College in 1998, Mitchell was thrust into a long-simmering schism between the city of Washington, Pennsylvania and the college. During a courtesy visit to local officials early in his tenure, Mitchell was berated by the officials for 45 minutes, blaming the college "for everything that had gone wrong in the last 50 years.”[4][5]

In 2000, the college and Franklin & Marshall College, Michigan State University and SUNY Geneseo participated in a collaborative effort sponsored by the Knight Collaborative, a national initiative designed to develop strategies for partnership between colleges and local community revitalization efforts.[6] Shortly thereafter, Washington & Jefferson was awarded a $50,000 grant from the Claude Worthington Benedum Foundation to develop a coherent plan, entitled the "Blueprint for Collaboration," to detail goals and benchmarks for the future to help the College and the city work together on economic development, environmental protection, and historic preservation.[7] The plan included provisions for the college to offer more academic opportunities for the community and to explore moving its bookstore into the downtown area, develop student housing in the downtown area, and to expand student use of the downtown eating, shopping, and visiting destinations.[6] The City of Washington began a downtown revitalization project featuring new sidewalks, landscaping, and fiber-optic cables.[6] The plan also called for an "investors roundtable," comprising federal and state officials, the banking community, commercial interests, and potential investors.[6]

Mitchell ushered in an expansion of the academic programs, including the addition of an Environmental Studies Program, an Information Technology Leadership Program, the Office of Life-Long Learning, the Center for Excellence in Teaching and Learning, and a Bachelor of Arts Degree Program in Music.[3] The college's international partnership and student exchange with the University of Cologne was expanded.[3] A capital campaign brought in over $90 million and the college simultaneously increased the volume of applications and became more selective in its admission practices.[8]

In June 2001, Mitchell and the Washington and Jefferson trustees adopted a new master plan to remodel the campus and its educational environment, building modifications and a campus beautification program.[3] The campus dining facility, the "Commons," was remodeled in 2000, the football field was improved and rededicated as Cameron Stadium in 2001, and the Old Gym was re-purposed as a campus fitness and wellness center.[3] Several new buildings were constructed under the plan, including The Burnett Center in 2001, a new technology center in 2003, and a new dormitory in 2002.[3] A second dormitory was initiated in 2003 and was completed after Mitchell's March 2004 departure for the presidency of Bucknell University.[3]

Bucknell University[edit]

Brian C. Mitchell was named Bucknell University’s 16th president in July 2004 and served six years until stepping down in June, 2010. Mitchell is a champion of the value of a liberal arts education working to establish new programs, for example, in biomedical engineering, environmental studies, and public policy while at Bucknell. Mitchell is the principal architect behind the development of Bucknell University’s strategic plan and its first comprehensive master plan since the 1930s. He led a major fundraising effort for Bucknell to raise at least $400 million over the next several years and which has already raised over $170 million from all sources to date. Mitchell is a specialist in and advocate for strong community-based partnerships as well and through his efforts Bucknell has worked closely with its region to develop a new 30,000 sq. ft. Barnes & Noble Bookstore in downtown Lewisburg as well as rehabilitated downtown administrative office space, the rejuvenation of the iconic art deco Campus Theater, a business incubation center, Bucknell Landing which opens the Susquehanna River directly to Bucknell's faculty, students, staff and programs, and more than 10 miles in rails-to-trails projects in the region.

Working with Bucknell's faculty, he implemented a new arts and science curriculum; ABET reaccreditation of the University's engineering college, the move from department to a School of Management, and the migration to the 5-course load that lowered the student/faculty ratio to 10/1. More than 60 new professors have been hired during his tenure, faculty salaries have been improved and rank among the most competitive in the country, sabbatical and travel funds have been increased, and the University opened a new Teaching and Learning Center. During his service, Bucknell moved its bond rating to an outstanding Aa2 and is regarded as one of the best managed universities in America, with a strong balance sheet and a history of consecutive balanced budgets. Its capital program remains robust with little deferred maintenance and through the construction or repurposing and rehabilitation of numerous buildings on campus during his six years at Bucknell.[9]

Edvance Foundation[edit]

In July 2010, Mitchell partnered with Kurt M. Thiede to establish the Edvance Foundation, a nonprofit organization bringing expertise, resources, ingenuity, and foresight to institutions of higher education across the U.S.[10]


Mitchell serves as the chair of the Board of Trustees of Merrimack College.

He is also a member of the board of the National Merit Scholarship Corporation in Chicago and has served as a trustee of Washington and Jefferson College.

Mitchell was honored with the 2010 national award for individual contributions to American higher education by the POSSE Foundation at a major gala in New York City in May 2010.[9]


  1. ^ Date information sourced from Library of Congress Authorities data, via corresponding WorldCat Identities linked authority file (LAF) .
  2. ^
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l "Brian C. Mitchell (1998-2004)". U. Grant Miller Library Digital Archives. Washington & Jefferson College. 2003-09-04. 
  4. ^ a b c d e Marino, Gigi (September 2004). "What a Ride It Will Be". Bucknell World (Bucknell University). 
  5. ^ "Colleges, communities find ways to coexist". (Associated Press). 2003-07-14. Archived from the original on 2006-12-23. 
  6. ^ a b c d "College and Community Present Cooperative Plan" (Press release). Washington and Jefferson College. 2002-11-22. 
  7. ^ "Blueprint for Collaboration Applauded" (Press release). Washington and Jefferson College. 2003-06-26. 
  8. ^ "Mitchell leaves W&J for job at Bucknell". Pittsburgh Business Times. 2004-03-02. 
  9. ^ a b
  10. ^

External links[edit]

Academic offices
Preceded by
Howard J. Burnett
President of Washington and Jefferson College
Succeeded by
G. Andrew Rembert (Interim)
Tori Haring-Smith