In his too-short time on Earth, Carl Mitchell (BSc 1984 St. Michael’s College) exemplified the concept of giving back. The 55-year-old Mitchell, who died in June after a 14-month battle with abdominal cancer, was a successful tech pioneer and business executive whose extraordinary generosity to U of T – in the form of time, leadership, money and ideas – has left a lasting impact on the school he so loved.
“Carl Mitchell won the admiration and affection of everyone who had the pleasure of knowing him,” says U of T president Meric Gertler. “He also earned the gratitude of the entire U of T community for his exemplary leadership in service to our alumni and to our shared academic mission. We will remember his wisdom, integrity and decency.”
Mitchell started off as a general science student in 1979, but soon gravitated to the burgeoning field of computers. “Programming was a lot more intuitive than, say, chemistry,” he recalled in a 2004 interview with this magazine. “I could work out a program in my head on my way over to the lab.”
Several years after graduation, Mitchell (by then a software manager) went into business with three others. Their company, V3 Semiconductor, developed rapid data-transfer technology for clients such as NASA. After V3 was sold in 2001, Mitchell earned an MBA and worked as a business consultant.
By this time, of course, computers had long moved out of the punch-card era. When Mitchell learned about U of T’s plans for a new information technology facility, he decided to become the first donor. His largesse led to the establishment of a full computer lab at the Bahen Centre. (Read more about his contribution.)
So began Mitchell’s extraordinary period of alumni service at U of T. Among other things, he served on computer science’s award selection committees, as well as its industry advisory board. In 2009, he was elected president of the U of T Alumni Association (UTAA). “He believed that board members need to show their engagement, not just talk about getting others engaged,” says Matthew Chapman, who succeeded him as president. To this end, Mitchell encouraged members to perform acts of service, such as tree planting.
Born in Jamaica, but a Toronto resident for most of his life, Mitchell was married to Margaret Shaw (BA 1986 Victoria) and has a daughter and son. Says Barbara Dick, assistant vice-president of alumni relations: “Carl walked and spoke softly, but everyone who had the pleasure and honour of working with him came away with a clear sense of his innate kindness, principles and intelligence.”