1940 Texas A&M petroleum engineering graduate George P. Mitchell's (left) and world-renowned Cambridge theoretical physicist Stephen Hawking's combined love of physics and astronomy has led to big things for Mitchell's alma mater, including two new physics buildings and an auditorium that bears Hawking's name. Hawking first came to Texas A&M in 1995 and since has made four return trips to the campus, including one in April 2010 for a public lecture and the official ceremony dedicating the Stephen W. Hawking Auditorium, located within the George P. and Cynthia Woods Mitchell Institute for Fundamental Physics and Astronomy, named for Mitchell at Hawking's suggestion.

EDITOR'S NOTE: One of the highlights of yesterday's (Thursday, Aug. 8) memorial tribute celebrating the life of George P. Mitchell '40 at the Cynthia Woods Mitchell Pavilion in The Woodlands, Texas, was a videotaped eulogy delivered by one of his lifelong heroes and friends, world-renowned Cambridge University theoretical physicist Stephen W. Hawking. The following is the transcript of that eulogy:

"George P. Mitchell was a remarkable individual who combined vision with wisdom and persistence. Through sheer hard work and dedication, he leaves behind an extraordinary legacy. It can be said of very few people that they changed the world -- but George Mitchell is among those few.

I first met George in 2002 when Chris Pope flew him to see me in Pasadena to persuade him to support physics at Texas A&M University, not that he needed much persuading.

George had been a strong backer of the Superconducting Super Collider, which would have been more powerful and earlier than the LHC but was cancelled half-built.

After our meeting, George got things moving and when I visited Texas A&M the following year, there was already the George and Cynthia Mitchell Center for Fundamental Physics which has since moved to splendid new premises. Through George's support, Texas A&M has become a leading university for research into physics and cosmology.

I am proud to remember him as a friend. I had several happy visits to his beautiful nature reserve in Texas where George did me and my colleagues the honor of allowing us to hold a physics conference.

While none of us can match George's ingenuity in geophysical discovery, I am happy to say that I still managed to beat him in wheelchair racing, even if it was only by a narrow margin.

Loved, admired and respected, through his work in energy production, his humanitarian generosity, his academic curiosity and passion for inspiration. And his wonderful, warm family, George P. Mitchell will live on in the hearts and minds of all who knew him."

-- Stephen

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To learn more about George P. Mitchell's keen interest in science, his ties to Prof. Hawking and the related history behind his rich legacy of visionary support for Texas A&M Physics and Astronomy, read a recent feature by Houston Chronicle science writer Eric Berger.

For additional personal insight on Mitchell and interest not only in the frontiers of science but people like Texas A&M physicist Peter M. McIntyre who are working to explore those, see Berger's follow-up feature in McIntyre's own words.

Click here to view a PDF of a past feature story on Mitchell and his early involvement with Texas A&M Physics and Astronomy that appeared in the 2006 issue of DISCOVERY magazine.

To learn more about the George P. and Cynthia Woods Mitchell Institute for Fundamental Physics and Astronomy, visit http://mitchell.tamu.edu.

For more on Mitchell and another of his visionary legacies, the Cynthia and George Mitchell Foundation, go to http://cgmf.org/.


Contact: Shana K. Hutchins, (979) 862-1237 or shutchins@science.tamu.edu

Hutchins Shana

  • Man With A Mission

    George P. Mitchell '40 addresses the crowd at that 2010 Hawking Auditorium dedication ceremony, flanked by Stephen Hawking (right) and Dr. H. Joseph Newton, dean of the Texas A&M College of Science (left).

© Texas A&M University. To request use of any of our photographs for educational use or to view additional options from our archive, please contact the College of Science Communications Office.

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