Lake Superior State University’s Board of Trustees has selected Peter T. Mitchell to serve as interim president, effective July 1. LSSU lost its eighth president, Thomas Pleger, on May 7 after a brief illness. Interim provost David Roland Finley had been serving as LSSU’s acting president since then.
Mitchell was the fourteenth president of Albion College from 1997-2007 and is a member of its Class of 1967. Most recently, he has been running a consulting company, Proactive Transition Management (PTM). The company manages change and transitions for colleges and universities, providing strategic responses to specific challenges and opportunities. PTM also offers executive searches, compensation studies, evaluation, and individually tailored professional coaching programs for college and university presidents and vice presidents.
“Dr. Mitchell’s experience as a college president for 24 years and the past 10 years as a consultant will enable Lake State to sustain the positive momentum Dr. Pleger established prior to his tragic death,” said Board Chair Jim Curran. “Peter’s success in enrollment, fundraising, and strategic planning are the skills needed to meet the challenges and opportunities facing our university.”
“Dr. Mitchell’s interviews with trustees, administrators, faculty and staff were very well received,” said Ann Parker, first vice chair of the Board and coordinator of the search for an interim president. “We received feedback comments highlighting Peter’s ability to inspire confidence, his understanding of and appreciation for the special culture at Lake State, his administrative and financial acumen, and his optimism about the future for LSSU.”
“Peter’s interim presidency will not be a caretaker position,” said Rod Nelson, second vice chair of the Board. “Because of his success in so many aspects of higher education administration, we see the next twelve months as a dynamic and progressive time at Lake State. Peter’s reputation as a strategic and charismatic leader will help us heal after the loss of Tom Pleger, but will also help us refocus our energies on ways to strengthen LSSU. Despite the challenges facing all public universities, the Lake State board, administration, faculty, staff and students are ready, willing and eager to work together to achieve our full potential.”
In accepting the appointment, Mitchell said, “It is an honor to serve Lake State at this pivotal time. The two words that resonated at every meeting on campus were ‘tremendous potential.’ There is a blend of optimism and dedication that is inspiring. I’m excited about channeling that tremendous potential as president into strategic initiatives that will position the university for a promising future.”
“My attraction to Lake State is both professional and personal,” he added. “The opportunity to apply 34 years of experience as a president and consultant will be intellectually stimulating. Having spent fifth and sixth grade at Garfield Elementary School and the fact that my older brother is an alumnus of Soo Tech makes the interim presidency very personal. Being able to give back to a place that has family connections is a special privilege. My wife Becky and I look forward to being part of the proud Laker tradition.”
During Mitchell’s presidency of Albion College, the college achieved the highest enrollment in its history, the endowment increased by 61% to $197 million, and more than $70 million was raised and spent on campus facilities including $42 million for a LEED Silver Status certified science complex.
The Mitchell years also saw Albion renovate its science complex and construct a residential village, a tennis center, an equestrian center, two student residence halls, and a student, technology and administrative services building.
Prior to coming to Albion, Mitchell was president of Columbia College in Columbia, S.C., for nine years. Under his leadership, in 1989, Columbia College established the Women’s Leadership Institute, the first of its kind in the nation, and in 1993 created the Center for Women Entrepreneurs, a regional training and consultation center. He also completed fundraising for a $6.5 million Center for Science and Technology. Columbia’s endowment more than doubled during his tenure, and annual giving tripled. In addition, U.S. News and World Report named Columbia as one of the top five regional liberal arts colleges in the South.
From 1983 to 1988, Mitchell served as president of Lasell College in Newton, Mass. Earlier in his career, he held appointments as vice president for development and as director of admissions at Lees College in Jackson, Ky., dean of admissions and financial aid at Fisher College in Boston, Mass., and associate professor of English at Bay de Noc Community College in Escanaba.
A past president of the South Carolina Association of Colleges and Universities, Mitchell was active in many local civic groups and served on the Board of Laity of the South Carolina Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church. He was a featured speaker for national and regional conferences sponsored by the U.S. Department of Education, American Council on Education, the Council for the Advancement and Support of Education and other groups. His service and achievements were recognized in April 1997 when he received the Order of the Palmetto, the highest civilian honor presented by the governor of South Carolina.
Mitchell holds a master’s degree in English language and literature from the University of Michigan, an Ed.S. in instructional systems and technology from Indiana University, and an Ed.D. in higher education administration from Northeastern University in Massachusetts.
Mitchell is married to the former Rebecca Putnam of Tulsa, Okla., an award-winning artist and community volunteer who has served on several boards and commissions, including founder and chairman of Kids’N’Stuff, an interactive children’s museum in Albion.
The couple has three grown children. Melissa M. Goldman is director of reading at a middle school and lives in Hingham, Mass., with her husband, Chuck, and three sons. Stephanie E. Schechter is an attorney and consultant who lives in Fairfield, Conn., with her husband, Adam, and two sons. Peter Joshua Mitchell lives and works in Bremerton, Wash., with his wife, Elliott, and son.
The Mitchells enjoy golf, reading, and volunteer work in church and community organizations.