BETHANY, W.Va. – Former Majority Leader of the United States Senate and U.S. Special Envoy for Middle East Peace, George J. Mitchell, will be the keynote speaker at Bethany College’s 2017 Commencement Ceremony in the Pennington Quadrangle on Saturday, May 20, at 1 p.m.
“Senator Mitchell has led a distinguished career in public service,” said Dr. Tamara Nichols Rodenberg, President of the College. “His illustrious career in the Senate, as well as his service to our nation, makes him an exceptional candidate to address the members of the class of 2017. We are honored to have him join our campus.”
In 1980, Mitchell was appointed to the United States Senate to complete the unexpired term of Senator Edmund S. Muskie. He was elected to a full term in 1982 after a stunning come-from-behind victory. For 15 years, Mitchell led an esteemed career in the Senate serving on the Finance, Veterans Affairs, Environment and Public Works Committees. In those offices, he led the successful 1990 reauthorization of the Clean Air Act, and was the author of the first national oil spill prevention and cleanup law. He also led the Senate to passage of the nation’s first child care bill in addition to authoring the low-income housing tax credit program. Conjointly, he served as an instrumental pillar in the passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act.
In 1995, he served as a Special Advisor for former President Bill Clinton in Ireland, and from 1996 to 2000, he served as the Independent Chairman of the Northern Ireland Peace Talks. Under his leadership, the “Good Friday Agreement” was agreed by the governments of Ireland, the United Kingdom and the political parties of Northern Ireland. During this service, Mitchell received numerous awards and records including the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the Philadelphia Liberty Medal, the Truman Institute Peace Prize, and the United Nations (UNESCO) Peace Prize.
By the request of President Clinton, Prime Minister Ehud Barak and Chairman Yasser Arafat, Mitchell served as Chairman of an International Fact-Finding Committee on Violence in the Middle East from 2000 to 2001. In 2009, former President Barack Obama appointed Mitchell as the U.S. Special Envoy for Middle East Peace.
Prior to his career in the Senate, Mitchell served as Trial Lawyer in the Justice Department in Washington, United States Attorney of Maine, and United States District Court Judge for the District of Maine. He also served as an Officer in the United States Army Counter-Intelligence Corps from 1954 to 1956.
Mitchell served as Chairman of the global board of the law firm DLA Piper and is now Chairman Emeritus. He is a current member of the Board for the Boston Red Sox and previously served as Chairman of the Board of Directors of The Walt Disney Company.
Mitchell is the author of six books. His most recent books are A Path to Peace, published in November 2016 and a memoir entitled, The Negotiator: Reflections on an American Life, published in May 2015.
Mitchell received his undergraduate degree from Bowdoin College in Maine. He went on to receive his law degree from the Georgetown University Law Center in Washington, D.C.
Bethany College is located on a picturesque and historic 1,300-acre campus in the Northern Panhandle of West Virginia. Founded in 1840, Bethany is the state’s oldest private college.