Louis A. Mitchell '57

Lou Mitchell '57Lou "Earp" Mitchell, one of Sigma Chi's, Denison's and Licking County's most outstanding and generous benefactors, entered the Chapter Eternal on June 24, 2012. He was 78.

Lou was a significant presence in the region for initiatives to help youth; programs benefiting students at his alma mater, Newark High School; major donor to the city school district; key benefactor to Denison University; leader in the Licking County Family YMCA; and many others.

"The really neat thing about Lou Mitchell is that he truly never forgot his roots," said Sarah Reese Wallace, whose father, philanthropist Gib Reese, was best friends with Mitchell for decades. "He could have easily done his things in Columbus, but he did most of his work in Licking County."

For his efforts, Mitchell earned two of the area's highest honors in recent years -- the Everett D. Reese Award from the Licking County Foundation and John Alford Community Service Award from the Licking County Chamber of Commerce.

In 1991, Mitchell and Jane Cook McConnell founded "A Call to College," a program that has helped thousands of NHS students apply for colleges and awarded more than $2 million in scholarships. The past several years, Mitchell helped fund the district's eighth-grade trip to Washington, D.C., each spring, giving many students their first chance to travel outside the area.

Since suiting up as one of the Wildcats' best basketball players about 60 years ago, sports had been one of Mitchell's passions. In 2009, he donated $500,000 to help build a new auxiliary gym, which is a part of the Mitchell Reese Athletic Complex at NHS.

The Mitchell Family Recreation Center at the Licking County Family YMCA was built in 2005 and bears Mitchell's name. That honor came after Mitchell nominated the building's gymnasium be named after longtime NHS coach Dick Schenk. Mitchell was named YMCA president, more than 100 years after his grandfather, John A. Mitchell, had the same position.

In 1994, Denison dedicated its 81,500-square-foot recreation and athletics center in Mitchell's honor. The university is working on a $38.5 million renovation and expansion project to include a natatorium, with Mitchell donating $7 million for the project.

Mitchell also founded the Licking County Settlers, a college-aged wooden-bat baseball team, in 2006. Through fundraising efforts, Mitchell and the Settlers have donated more than $75,000 to the United Way during the team's six-year history.

"The Settlers would not be in existence without Lou's dedication, generosity and vision, and we will deeply miss him at the ballpark," according to a team statement issued late Sunday. "Lou's reach extended far beyond the Settlers, and his loss will be felt by many throughout the community. Our thoughts and prayers are with Lou's family and friends."

His most recent work was assisting Denison University graduate and All-American athlete Dee Salukombo, who collected 22,000 pounds of items to send back to his home village in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Salukombo plans to start a library in the Congo and recently said he planned to name a running club in Mitchell's honor.

Mitchell also worked quietly behind the scenes to help people.

"The one thing that I think a lot of people don't know about him is he would drive to Newark multiple times per week just to visit people he knew at nursing homes," Reese Wallace said. "He cared about many people in Licking County."

Legendary NHS basketball coach Gary Walters said he recently learned Mitchell had been quietly helping a Capital University football player paralyzed in 1978, including regular visits and financial help.

"He just heard about the unfortunate situation involving this player," Walters said. "Once he was involved, he was totally committed, not just financially."

"There are so many things he's done and people he's assisted that we'll never know about," Walters said. "He loved helping Denison. He loved helping Newark High School. He loved helping people. He's one of the most outstanding men I've known in my life."

Mitchell grew up in Newark, the son of a doctor, and gained local fame for his exploits on the basketball court for Newark and Denison. Walters said his "Earp" nickname came from his uncanny ability to quickly and accurately shoot a basketball.

In 2009, Mitchell, a member of the NHS Hall of Fame, was inducted into the Ohio Basketball Hall of Fame.

At Denison, he was one of the school's best. He averaged more than 20 points and 15 rebounds in his career, and the Big Red won more than 70 percent of their games with him on the court.

Mitchell remains fourth on Denison's all-time scoring list and is the Big Red's leading rebounder. His career high of 44 points still ranks third best in single-game history. Mitchell was a team MVP and All-Ohio Conference Player of the Year during his career.

Mitchell stayed in basketball, although his working career focused on banking and finance. He served on the board of directors of American Basketball League's Cleveland Pipers from 1960-62, and he was one of the original investors for the Cleveland Cavaliers in 1970, serving on their board of directors until 1980.

At Denison, Mitchell was a member of the board of trustees for 17 years, serving especially the committees on investments, development, and finance. In 1998 he was named a life trustee. For his remarkable history of achievement and leadership, in 2007 Denison presented Lou with its Alumni Citation, the college's highest alumni award.

Lou devoted a great deal of his attention to Sigma Chi.  He was supportive of the major work performed on the 1930's Chapter House at Denison that has been a labor of love on the part of so many Mu Sigs and that has resulted in what correctly can be termed an historic restoration.

"When the old grand piano in the Sig House living room was pronounced irreparable," recalls classmate, Bill Mason '57, "Lou donated his personal baby grand piano and often would be found there playing familiar tunes from Sigma Chi and Denison songbooks."

Mason added, "Lou will be remembered for years to come as a generous college and civic leader who enabled new venues to be constructed serving his Denison and Newark communities."

All honor to his name.

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