Kindness repaid by paying it forward
Ed Mitchell ’84
Ed Mitchell loves St. Mike’s. You can hear it in his voice, the way he fondly remembers professors and mentors. The way he laughs when recalling friends and roommates, reunions and Rasputins. And the way he wants today’s students to have the same great liberal arts education and college experience he had. Better, even.
“My experience at St. Mike’s was very positive and gave me a great foundation for my career,” explains Ed, who was very involved with the Residence Life staff. “I was really mentored by and had strong ties with Mike Samara, Lou DiMasi, Jennie Cernosia, Dave Landers and Joe Snee. As a political science major, Dr. Baker and Dr. Wilson were very influential to me. Dr. Wilson was a hard professor, but fair and caring with the best interest of the students in mind.”
With the assistance of Dr. Baker, Ed was fortunate to get a six-credit internship at City Hall in Burlington during his senior year, when Bernie Sanders was mayor. “I think that was truly a springboard for me to get into graduate school in public administration and start my career in city government.”
After graduating from St. Mike’s in 1984, Ed earned a master’s in public administration from Suffolk University in 1986 and got a job offer in Florida. “I said I’d try Florida for a year, and thirty-something years later I’m still here,” he laughs. Ed and his wife Suzan, an interior designer, live in Clearwater. Ed’s career in city administration, management and vital resources has brought him great success over the years, but he’s never forgotten where he came from and who helped him get where he is today.
“I started to give annually to St. Mike’s when I graduated, in the $250 range, then built up to gifts of $500, then $1,000 or more. As I had more success in life, I was glad to have the opportunity to increase my giving,” he says. Ed knew that he wanted to do something significant, so he worked with Institutional Advancement staff to create an endowed scholarship with an initial gift of $50,000. “I wanted to set the parameters so that the scholarship would benefit a student from Worcester County, MA, where I grew up, or Barnstable County where I own a house and loved spending summers as a kid.”
As a member of the All in for St. Mike’s capital campaign committee, Ed is an extraordinary example of generosity for other alumni. He recently gave an additional $50,000 to his scholarship through a stock transfer. “It’s an easy process – I worked with my broker and put him in touch with St. Mike’s staff, then signed some papers, and off it went, so to speak. It was a tax benefit for me and good for St. Mike’s, too.”
Ed was delighted to receive a profile of the student who received the scholarship this year. “It gave me a good feeling to know that students are benefitting from my contribution to St. Mike’s.”
Ed keeps in touch with his college roommates and political science classmates regularly. “Joe Kenney, Jimmy Lamorticelli, Steve Brunette, Frank Normandin and Pete McShane ‒ what’s unique to a small school like Saint Mike’s is everybody knew everybody, and everybody, I think, cared about everybody. My friends and I definitely did.”
He fondly remembers the activities that shaped his own experiences as a student, both on and off campus. “The Residence Life work that I did gave me great responsibility,” watching out for dozens of younger students and helping them through a variety of challenges. He was a member of Crown & Sword and president of the Law Club. He laughs as he recalls his off-campus job, checking IDs at Rasputins downtown. “I didn’t want to work at a St. Mike’s bar like Finnigan’s and have to throw my friends out, so I worked at a UVM bar so I could throw UVM people out.”
Ed enjoys coming back to campus, volunteering at events like the Career Symposium and organizing class reunions. “St. Mike’s has that personal touch to it, which is important. It’s what sets it apart from other places,” he explains. “When I find myself reconnecting with classmates at reunions, we just pick up where we left off. I always loved how professors like Dr. Wilson and Dr. Carvellas show up at reunions. It’s amazing how well you get to know the professors at St. Mike’s, and how nice it is to stay connected, even after years away.”
When asked if he has career advice for seniors and recent graduates, Ed doesn’t hesitate. “There’s a lot of focus on STEM these days, but I still think that what a liberal arts education provides – being able to read and write well and engage people in thoughtful discussion – are vital skills that are needed in business and life in general. Having the ability to speak well, problem solve or negotiate – these come from being well-rounded and having interpersonal skills, all things we learned at St. Mike’s. Sometimes the liberal arts get lost in the higher education discussion, but I know it’s a big part of personal and professional success.”
Ed thinks back to his own student days and the friends, professors and mentors who supported him along the way. “You can be who you want to be at St Mike’s, yet they also help you be the person you want to become,” he says. Now, it’s Ed’s time to be that positive influence in the life of current students through the endowed $100,000 Edward R. Mitchell Family Scholarship. “I’m fortunate enough to pay forward some of the kindness that I received along the way,” he smiles. “I wouldn’t trade my St. Mike’s education for anything.”