Brian C. Mitchell bigraphy, stories - Presidents

Brian C. Mitchell : biography

1953 -

Brian Christopher Mitchell (born 1953) is the former president of Bucknell University, serving from 2004 until 2010. 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. 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.


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. 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. The bill provided uniform standards for determining the tax-exempt eligibility for all nonprofits, especially private colleges. This legislation was passed in response to Washington, Pennsylvania's 1993 lawsuit against Washington & Jefferson College challenging the college’s tax-exempt status. 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.

Washington & Jefferson College

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.”

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. 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. 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. The City of Washington began a downtown revitalization project featuring new sidewalks, landscaping, and fiber-optic cables. The plan also called for an "investors roundtable," comprising federal and state officials, the banking community, commercial interests, and potential investors.

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. The college's international partnership and student exchange with the University of Cologne was expanded. 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.

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. 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. 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. A second dormitory was initiated in 2003 and was completed after Mitchell's March 2004 departure for the presidency of Bucknell University.

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