All-University Award Recipients
Alumnus of the Year Award
DR. ARNOLD L. MITCHEM, GRAD '81,
HON DEG '04
Chevy Chase, Md.
Receiving an honorary doctorate is a significant distinction, to be sure. Receiving an honorary doctorate from 10 different universities? Simply staggering. Dr. Arnold L. Mitchem — Mitch to his friends — does it all in the name of education.
“I am driven by the desire to increase the possibility and life chances for low-income Americans,” says Mitchem, who is president of the Council for Opportunity in Education.
He has been a voice for low-income and disabled Americans his entire career, and his work has opened the doors to higher education for hundreds of thousands of students. Chief among his accomplishments is the expansion — by nearly 400 percent — of the federally funded TRIO programs, the U.S. Department of Education’s largest discretionary program. TRIO today serves nearly 850,000 students — more than the populations of Milwaukee and Madison, Wis., combined — in programs hosted by more than 1,200 colleges and universities.
It’s all about giving students who might otherwise never have the chance an opportunity to earn a baccalaureate degree. Led by Mitchem, COE strove successfully to standardize the eligibility criteria and functions of the five TRIO programs and helped assure that previously established programs would be able to continue to serve their students.
It’s what I’m most proud of,” he says. “The Education Amendments of 1980 made it possible for us to defend and improve the TRIO programs for the next 30 years.”
Before his work with TRIO, a young and ambitious Mitchem launched his career in Milwaukee as director of Marquette’s Educational Opportunity Program, a position he held for 17 years. Previously, he was a faculty member in the Department of History. In 1986, he relocated to Washington, D.C., to represent low-income and disabled students in the role he holds today.
“Marquette reinforced appreciation, recognition, and the value and dignity of every human being,” he says. “I saw these principles being played out in the curriculum and culture of the university. These four principles define my everyday work building the Council for Opportunity in Education and its mission.”
Mitchem’s influence has been so great that Marquette named a program after him. The Arnold L. Mitchem Fellowship Program aims to increase the presence of underrepresented groups in the professoriate by helping doctoral candidates complete their dissertations.
Mitchem is a member of the executive committee of the European Access Network, for which he focuses on extending and supporting the principles of social justice in European higher education. He is a former trustee of the College Board and past president of the Committee for Education Funding. He held the Martin Luther King, Jr.-Cesar Chavez-Rosa Parks Professorship at Michigan State University in 1987 and, in ’96, the Ralph Metcalfe Chair at Marquette.
Fun fact: His favorite book is The Old Man and the Sea by Ernest Hemingway.