Longtime Oklahoma State University professor Earl Mitchell, the university’s first Black tenured professor, died June 2 at his home in Stillwater after a battle with pancreatic cancer. He was 83.
Mitchell joined OSU as a research associate in 1967, received tenure status in 1982 and was well respected in his field. He also held highly regarded administrative positions such as assistant dean of the graduate college and associate vice president for multicultural affairs. He retired in 2009.
“Dr. Mitchell was a fantastic mentor, an outstanding biochemist, a great listener and always had your best interest at heart,” Janet Rogers, manager of the OSU Biochemistry and Molecular Biology CORE Facility, told OSU communications. “It didn’t matter who you were. He always had the gift of connecting with people.” “If you were down, he would find a way to inspire you. His smile, his warmth, his voice — they just lit up a room.”
Mitchell was known for his advocacy for underrepresented students. Jason Kirksey, OSU’s vice president for institutional diversity, loved this aspect of Mitchell.
“Engagement is the first word that comes to mind when thinking of Dr. Mitchell, for he continued to work on behalf of underrepresented students and OK-LSAMP long after he retired,” Kirksey said. “Students were able to see themselves in him. He was the success story and was able to communicate the importance of so many things, just by having a conversation.”
For others, Mitchell was known as an incredible instructor. Alumna Melissa Booth loved Mitchell’s engaging classroom demeanor –– and his ability to make a lesson unforgettable. Mitchell helped Booth become a better teacher.
“Dr. Mitchell had faith I could do the job and do it well,” Booth said. “I remember sharing my career goals with him one day. He smiled that special smile of his and told me who I needed to call and what I needed to do to get accepted to the schools that would make it most likely for me to reach those goals. He was such a giving person.”
Earl Mitchell is survived by his three children, six grandchildren and one great-grandchild.