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Brian C. Mitchell ‘74

Brian C. Mitchell was named Bucknell University’s 16th president in July 2004 and served six years until stepping down in June, 2010.  Bucknell is among the most selective universities in America accepting about 30 percent of its applicants and yielding over forty percent of those admitted with strong programs in the arts and humanities, life sciences, management and engineering.  Its undergraduate engineering program is consistently rated among the top ten in America.

Prior to joining Bucknell, Mitchell served as president of Washington & Jefferson College (1998-2004) and president of the Association of Independent Colleges and Universities of Pennsylvania (1995-1998).

A past member of Bucknell’s Board of Trustees, Mitchell is widely quoted in the national media, including National Public Radio, The Associated Press, The New York Times, The Christian Science Monitor, The Chicago Tribune, The Philadelphia Inquirer, and The Chronicle of Higher Education. His extensive knowledge of private higher education issues is underscored by a demonstrated leadership in working within and outside the university community. 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.

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. The recipient of numerous academic awards, he has received grants from the American Council of Learned Societies, the National Endowment for the Humanities, the American Historical Association, and the U.S. Department of the Interior and has consulted on many projects and programs, including serving as an adviser to the development of the Lowell National Historical Park.

A specialist in 19th-century urban, ethnic and labor history, Mitchell is the author of The Paddy Camps: The Irish of Lowell, 1821-1861 (University of Illinois Press) as well as numerous other books, edited collections, journal articles, op-eds and conference papers.

 In addition to extensive teaching experience in Massachusetts, New Hampshire and Virginia, Mitchell was a program officer in the Division of State Programs of the National Endowment for the Humanities in Washington, D.C. before becoming president of the Council of Independent Colleges and Universities of Pennsylvania in 1991.

Mitchell is a past chair of the Association of Independent Colleges and Universities of Pennsylvania (AICUP), which represents Pennsylvania’s 85 private colleges and universities, of the Pennsylvania Selection Committee for the Rhodes Scholarship, of the National Association of Independent College and University Executives (NAICUSE) and The Patriot League Council of Presidents.  He has also served on the boards of the National Association of Independent Colleges and Universities (NAICU), Pennsylvania Humanities Council, National History Day, and the Geisinger Health System, and was appointed by Governor Tom Ridge and reappointed by Governor Ed Rendell to the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission.  He was also a member of the board of The Annapolis Group, representing America’s 125 most selective liberal arts colleges and universities.  In April 2010, President Clinton asked him to speak at the Clinton Global Initiative Conference on an ambitious new program to attract the best and brightest community college students to highly selective institutions like Bucknell as the result of a program developed there through a major grant from the Jack Kent Cooke Foundation.

Mitchell served 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.