Mitchell Foundation Makes Additional $20 Million Gift to Mitchell Institute for Fundamental Physics and Astronomy at Texas A&M University

A new $20 million gift makes Houston billionaire George P. Mitchell the most generous donor in Texas A&M University's history.

The contribution, established through the Texas A&M Foundation and payable over five years, will significantly boost the endowment for the George P. and Cynthia Woods Mitchell Institute for Fundamental Physics and Astronomy.

With the latest contribution, the oilman's support of his alma mater will exceed $95 million, the university announced Thursday. The gift from the 93-year-old as well as the Cynthia and George Mitchell Foundation was celebrated on Wednesday during a reception in College Station.

The businessman's record-breaking giving began in 2002 with $1 million to establish the Mitchell Institute.

"He has put Texas A&M on the map already in terms of astronomy, cosmology and fundamental physics and this gift will make us one of the top places in the world," College of Science Dean Joe Newton said Thursday.

Mitchell and his late wife made the family's largest pledge of $35 million in 2005 toward the construction of the $82.5 million Mitchell Institute and George P. Mitchell '40 Physics Buildings, the first on campus "to be financed through a public-private partnership involving substantial donor funds," a news release said.

The Mitchell family's generosity has helped A&M attract Nobel laureates to its physics department and bolster its status as a major research university as a partner in developing the Giant Magellan Telescope under construction in Chile.

"The Mitchell Institute is very well poised to play a unique role in understanding the important interconnection between particle physics and cosmology by bringing together high-energy physicists and astronomers," institute interim director Bhaskar Dutta, professor of physics and astronomy, said in the release. "This gift will go a long way to contributing to human understanding of the past, present and future of the universe."

Mitchell, a petroleum engineering graduate born in Galveston, earned his money in oil and gas. He is a pioneer in the field of hydraulic fracturing who developed The Woodlands and the Cynthia Woods Mitchell Pavilion.

"My grandfather has a long history of supporting his keen interest in physics and astronomy," Mitchell Foundation President Katherine Lorenz said in the release, adding that the gift "provides an authentic legacy consistent with his values and vision. We are thrilled to support the work of some of the top scientists in the world as they explore the universe's most complex questions."

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