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The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

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Billionaire Aggie oilman Mitchell dies at 94

 
 

After a life of service and contribution to A&M, the energy industry and the world, George P. Mitchell died at the age of 94. Class of 1940, Mitchell graduated with a petroleum engineering degree and later founded Mitchell Energy & Development Corp. and the Cynthia and George Mitchell Foundation.
Mitchell’s life featured a wide range of achievements – including graduating first in his class, developing the Woodlands, pioneering shale gas technology, restoring the historic area of Galveston, donating the land for and supporting the Galveston campus of Texas A&M, helping A&M become a leader in astronomy and physics and pursuing efforts in creating a more sustainable planet.
“My grandfather’s contribution to the world is truly remarkable,” said Katherine Lorenz, granddaughter of Mitchell and current Mitchell Foundation President. “In unlocking a new energy source, the world has fundamentally changed – and I think we are only beginning to see the impact this remarkable discovery will have in the world. Energy security and energy independence might well be possible after all.”
University President R. Bowen Loftin said in a statement the death of Mitchell represented the loss of a visionary.
“He didn’t see limits, only possibilities – possibilities that he converted into realities to fulfill his vision,” Loftin said. “His achievements have benefitted all mankind and certainly those of us in Texas and at Texas A&M.”
After graduating, Mitchell began working for Amoco in the oil fields of East Texas and Louisiana, but left to join the Army Corps of Engineers during World War II. He met his wife, Cynthia Woods, while on a train to the traditional Thanksgiving Day football game between A&M and the University of Texas. They married in 1943.
He was stationed in his hometown of Galveston overseeing engineering projects when the Mitchells had their first of 10 children in 1945. The Mitchell family moved to Houston when the war ended and he entered the oil business with his brother, Johnny, first as an independent consulting geologist and petroleum engineer and then as co-founder of Oil Drilling Inc.
Their big break occurred when Mitchell saw something in the geology reports of an area north of Fort Worth known as “The Wildcatters’ Graveyard,” which resulted in the discovery of one of the largest gas fields in North America. Mitchell soon turned to more sustainable energy sources and pioneered the field of shale gas drilling and processing, earning the name “Father of Fracking.”
Peter McIntyre, a professor of applied physics at Texas A&M, said Mitchell revolutionized the energy field.
“I remember asking him on several such occasions what he was working on with his company,” McIntyre said. “He was very modest in answer, saying just some new ideas for how to get natural gas that no one but he believed was down there. I only learned later, when he had transformed the entire gas industry and America’s energy independence by making shale gas a success, that no one in the gas patch, no one in geophysics and no one in the government labs had believed in his ideas; indeed most had ridiculed him.”
Mitchell also had a love for astronomy, which led him to contribute to the astronomy program at A&M. His donations funded several projects and led to the creation of the Mitchell Institute. McIntyre said he requested aid from Mitchell in 1983 that resulted in a laboratory in the Woodlands where the technology for high-energy accelerators was developed.
“I came with my drawings and papers, and soon we were squatting on the floor of his office, him asking questions and becoming excited, I marveling that this man found my physics and technology interesting,” McIntyre said, adding that Mitchell agreed to fund half of the supercollider project he was proposing.
Lorenz said her grandfather’s love for A&M is what spurred his contributions to the university.
“My grandfather felt a loyalty to A&M that was strong and consistent throughout his life,” she said. “He always felt his education was what enabled him to be successful and to live his dreams. It is no surprise that he gave so generously to A&M given how thankful he was for what A&M had given him. He wanted to help others like him succeed – he wanted others who grew up in poverty to have the opportunity to pursue their dreams.”
Lorenz said Mitchell’s contributions and impact on the world would be missed, but his dreams of sustainabilty would continue through the Mitchell Foundation.
“The world has lost a remarkable person,” Lorenz said. “We are thankful for the important role A&M played in making him who he was. The Cynthia and George Mitchell Foundation will continue to support innovative solutions to the world’s most
pressing issues.”
McIntyre also commented on Mitchell’s passing, saying that his vision, heart and mind would be missed.
“George P. Mitchell was one of the greatest Texans of all time, with a vision, and heart and a mind to embrace the world, to do new things to make it a better place and to care about friends and family along the way,” he said. “We will miss you, George.”

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