David and Jerry (Penman) Mitchells’ passion and love for music has been a part of their lives since they were children. David, from Terre Haute, Ind., and Jerry from Brazil, Ind., continue to support the development of music locally, nationally and all around the world.
Since he was a child, David’s mother, Gladys, strongly encouraged him and his siblings to play the piano. She graduated from Indiana State Normal School with a degree in music. David’s father graduated from Indiana State Normal School, and two sisters graduated from Indiana State Teachers College. His father was also head of the social studies department and taught economics at Indiana State Teachers College.
“Even though I preferred to play football, I did what my mother told me and learned to play the piano. After learning piano, we chose an instrument; I chose the trumpet,” David said.
Throughout high school, David continued to play the trumpet in the marching band.
Like David, Jerry’s passion for music developed from her family of musicians. Her grandparents on both sides of her family played musical instruments as a means of entertainment.
“We were always around music growing up. Every Saturday, we would listen to the live philharmonic on the radio,” Jerry, ’46, said.
Music has been a way of life for both David and Jerry, and when the couple married, their enthusiasm for music continued. They supported music when they lived in Central and South America for 30 years. David retired in 1996 as chairman of the board of the Bolivia Power Company. David and Jerry were and continue to be long time sponsors of the Symphony Orchestra in La Paz, Bolivia, where they lived for 18 years, and of the Terre Haute Symphony Orchestra since they returned in 2001.
“Giving comes from within and from what you have learned from your family,” David said.
Jerry is proud of the long heritage she has with her alma mater, as her sister, two aunts, an uncle, two nephews, and a niece are all graduates. She has served ISU as a past member of the Indiana State University Foundation Board.
When the Mitchells decided they wanted to support Indiana State, the music program was their choice after years of supporting the Dr. Waldo F. Mitchell Scholarship in economics. After discussing the needs of the School of Music with university leadership, David and Jerry felt inspired to create experiential learning opportunities for ISU’s aspiring musicians.
“Dr. Tom Sauer [former dean of the College of Arts and Sciences] and Dr. Dan Bradley [ISU president] inspired us to give. They were the ones who thought there really was a need for experiential learning and community engagement in the music department. We all wanted more students to come to Indiana State for an education in music rather than going somewhere else,” Jerry said.
“Dave and Jerry are wonderful friends of Indiana State and great supporters of live music. We just can’t say enough about the impact their support has had on our students and our university,” Bradley said.
In 2009, the Mitchells made their commitment of $100,000 to create the Music Experiential Learning and Community Engagement Fund.
“The Mitchells’ gift to the School of Music provided unprecedented opportunities for our students and faculty to take performances that would ordinarily be held only on campus to audiences around the state of Indiana and to Chicago in Symphony Hall. These performances provided our students ‘real-life’ experiences of touring and performing in a number of different venues,” Nancy Cobb Lippens, director of the school of music, said.
The fund has allowed music students to perform in front of hundreds of people in regional venues, including Indianapolis and Chicago. Since the development of the fund, more than 200 students have performed in six recitals and concerts. Additionally, the enrollment for the School of Music has grown by 7.5 percent.
“These once-in-a-lifetime experiences will be remembered by our students for the rest of their lives. We are extremely grateful to them [Dave and Jerry] for their generosity,” Cobb Lippens said.
David and Jerry have made a significant difference in the lives of music students at Indiana State University.
“We are strong believers that you don’t have to know the person you are giving to as long as it makes a difference.” Jerry said.
Hilary Duncan, ’10, is the communications coordinator for the Indiana State University Foundation.