Texas A&M Receives Endowment from George Mitchell

Texas A&M University is upgrading the physics department and developing an astronomy department thanks to a $35 million endowment from oil tycoon George Mitchell.

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The Texas A&M Physics Department is getting two new buildings, new labs and equipment and more faculty members. Dr. Ed Fry is the head of the physics department and holds the George P Mitchell Chair in Experimental Physics. He says he discussed the possibility of one new physics building with Mr. Mitchell. The original estimate for the building was about $6 million.

But rather than scrap the project, Mitchell asked Fry to get financial support from the university for a restructured physics department. He then committed to $35 million toward the effort, with A&M chipping in another $22 million from other sources. Mitchell graduated from Texas A&M with a degree in petroleum engineering and geology. But he says he has always had an interest in physics and astronomy and wanted to support those programs.

The new facilities are designed by architect Michael Graves and will open in 2007 and 2008. Dr. Fry says the new physics department will help both faculty and students cultivate a higher standard of education by putting all the resources in one area.

The endowment will also bolster the new astronomy department, an area of science that A&M has not ventured into before. Mitchell says he can't stand it when he hears about other schools like CalTech or Princeton getting the glory and he wants A&M to be among the leaders in all scientific endeavors.

And with regards to A&M football, Mitchell says there's always next year.

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