JOB TITLE: President, Michael C. Mitchell, Consulting; chairman, Board of Directors, C&O Canal Trust
FAVORITE TRINITY MEMORY: Four years performing in the Trinity Concert Choir, with a tour through New England, a trip to Puerto Rico, and two concert tours through England (one of which was in 1974 as a postgraduate when the choir was short on tenors) provided many very special memories of my Trinity experience.
What does the C&O Canal Trust do?
The C&O Canal Trust is the official nonprofit partner of the Chesapeake & Ohio Canal National Historical Park (CHOH). The trust’s mission is to work with the National Park Service to protect, restore, and promote the park. The CHOH is the 12th most visited park in the National Park System with more than 5 million visitors a year. It also has a greater than $1 million backlog in maintenance needs. The trust raises funds to restore the 19th-century canal lockhouses for its Canal Quarters overnight stay program, to maintain the quality of the 184.5-mile-long canal towpath, and to manage an array of programs in support of the park. The Canal Quarters program has hosted more than 12,000 guests in six restored lockhouses since the program’s inception. Each lockhouse interprets a different period of the canal history. Since 2013, more than 35,000 grade school students have participated in the one-day field trip Canal Classrooms program, learning STEM principles using the canal lock system as the teaching tool. The Canal Pride program conducts dozens of public service project days in the park on an annual basis to help to maintain and restore the park. The Towpath Forever program helps to ensure the integrity of the towpath that runs the length of the park.
What drew you to being a part of it?
The C&O Canal Trust and the park bring together my interests in history, outdoor recreation, photography, the opportunity to lead an organization, and the desire to give back to the community all in one place. The park is a one-stop shop for many of the things that I love to do.
What do you enjoy most about your role there?
As chairman of the C&O Canal Trust board, I enjoy the leadership opportunity to help shape the agenda and the accomplishments of the trust in support of the park. This involvement ensures that I am out in the park on a very frequent basis.
What do/did you do professionally besides the C&O Canal Trust?
My first job out of graduate school was the federal relations lead for the U.S. Advisory Commission on Intergovernmental Relations, where I worked for four years. The decade of the 1980s, I worked for Senator William V. Roth (R-DE) as a professional staff member of the Senate Committee on Governmental Affairs, which he chaired. I worked for Lockheed Martin Corporation from 1990-2011, retiring as a vice president in the Washington Operations Office. Since 2011, I have run my own government relations consulting firm.
How did your time at Trinity help prepare you for all you do now?
Trinity gave me the opportunity to improve my analytical, writing, and speaking skills; to explore my love of history; and to perform musically as a member of the Concert Choir.
Was there a professor who was particularly influential? If so, who was it, and why?
George Cooper, in his English history courses, did a great deal to improve my ability to think critically and to write. With aphorisms like “cynicism is not a sobriquet for intelligence,” he taught life lessons as well as history lessons.
What was the most memorable course you took at Trinity? Why?
My freshman seminar in American history with Ron Spencer was a small group class with a focus on the events and circumstances that led to the Civil War. The freewheeling nature of our conversations in class, the passion and excitement for the topic that Ron instilled in all of us, and the frequent writing opportunities were challenging and fulfilling and set the table for my four very happy years at Trinity.
Mike Mitchell ’73 stands on the summit of Tooth of Time, a peak in the Philmont Scout Ranch in Cimarron, New Mexico, several years ago. The trek was one of the five High Adventure scouting trips he did with his sons, Andrew and Thomas, when they were in Boy Scouts. Both went on to become Eagle Scouts.