Gayle Mitchell, top left, poses in February with a delegation from Nicaragua's National University of Engineering, which visited the Russ College and the Ohio Research Institute for Transportation and the Environment to discuss partnerships.
Photographer: Rebecca Miller
Apr 18, 2013
By Adrienne Cornwall
When productions of the Broadway classic A Chorus Line and modern musical RAIN: The Beatles Experience arrived at Templeton-Blackburn Memorial Auditorium this year, the shows drew at least one longtime arts fan from the university’s oldest technical discipline.
Gayle Mitchell, chair of the Department of Civil Engineering Department at the Fritz J. and Dolores H. Russ College of Engineering and Technology and Neil D. Thomas Professor has been a civil engineer for more than 25 years, specializing in improving the environmental impact of roadway construction — and she’s also an avid theater and dance enthusiast.
A longtime supporter of OHIO’s Performing Arts Series as well as her own department, Mitchell joined Ohio University in 1986. She gives periodically to both groups to ensure that the programs are able to provide opportunities for experience and recognition to their students.
“Assistance to students in their scholarly achievements and extracurricular activities makes for a well-rounded student,” said Mitchell, who is also director of the Ohio Research Institute for Transportation and the Environment.
Because the arts are an often underfunded discipline overall, and as a regular consumer of the theater and dance performances, she feels it’s important to support opportunities for students to participate in major productions that come to campus.
“I like to see quality programs come to the university,” Mitchell said. “I think that what little funding you can give will help.”
Recognition for student achievement by her own department can only be achieved through the generosity of donors, and Mitchell understands firsthand how that kind of reward makes a lasting impression on a student: As a graduate student at Mississippi State University, Mitchell herself received a small award, and the recognition stayed with her.
“Those awards are very important students,” Mitchell said. “They may seem small, but they can make a difference in allowing students to continue their education.”
As a new alumna, she also began donating to her alma mater.
“I had always given some funds back to my alma mater,” Mitchell said. “When I came here, that was already ingrained in me.”
Gifts by faculty and staff to funds like Mitchell's support The Promise Lives Campaign, Ohio University's current capital campaign that has raised more than $414 million toward its goal of $450 million by June 2015 in support of students, faculty, programs, facilities and community partnerships.
In addition to student recognition, campaign funds enable the University and academic units to recognize and reward talented faculty they want to attract and retain. As a department chair, Mitchell knows that keeping talented, engaged professors is a boon to the school’s reputation, including among prospective students.
Campaign funds also support the upgrading and maintenance of essential supplies and facilities, like software and laboratories, allowing current students better opportunities to succeed in their studies.
Since she became chair in 1995, Mitchell has gotten to know the many generous Russ College alumni who make charitable giving a priority, for all of these reasons and more.
And while some of those alumni may have the opportunity to make big-dollar contributions, she believes setting the example of investing in educational opportunities is equally important at any level of giving.
“I see our alumni giving of their time and funds,” Mitchell said. “I need to do my part to show how important I think these programs are.”
Ohio University's current capital campaign, The Promise Lives Campaign, has raised more than $413 million toward its goal of $450 million by June 2015 in support of students, faculty, programs, facilities and community partnerships.
Click here to learn more about The Promise Lives campaign.
Click here to learn more about the Russ College's campaign priorities.