Gary Mitchell '80: A Formative Experience for Him, and for Others

665mitchell_webThe way Gary Mitchell ’80 tells it, his decision to attend PLU in the late 1970s had a lot to do with the idea of being close enough, but not too close, to his Bay Area, California, home.

“I didn’t want to feel like I had to come back every weekend,” Mitchell said with a laugh.

So when a friend from his church returned from his first year at PLU, reporting that he had a great time, Mitchell figured he’d try it himself. The distance, if nothing else, certainly fit his criteria.

For Mitchell, it was a great decision. He graduated in 1980 with a physics and engineering degree, and participated in ROTC across town at the University of Puget Sound, ultimately serving six years as an officer in the U.S. Air Force.

But what he really remembers is the experiences he had on the PLU campus, and the friends – lifelong friends – he made there. To this day, many of his closest friends are the people with whom he shared his four years on campus.

“It goes without saying that the college years are extremely formative years,” he said. “It certainly was for me. I had a great experience there – and because of that, I feel I have an obligation to give back to the university.”

Mitchell, who is president of the Novato, Calif., based Mitchell and Mitchell Insurance Agency, stays close to PLU through gifts to the university, in particular the PLU Annual Fund with gifts to Q Club Scholarships and the Rieke Science Center renovation. He also has named PLU as a beneficiary in his will.

But, in the end, Mitchell’s continued involvement with PLU comes down to the simple connection he made with the people he met, and the place he loved, when he was in his formative college years.

“I give because I had a great experience at PLU.” Mitchell said. “I give to the university so other people can have an experience similar to the one I had.”

By Steve Hansen