1984 Horatio Alger Award Winner
"If you want to create something, you have to have a vision."
George Mitchell, whose mother died when he was 13, was the third son of a Greek immigrant. His father's dry cleaning shop in Galveston, Texas, provided a meager living for family. Mitchell worked at a local fishing pier for a small salary and a portion of the fish he caught. He was an excellent student and graduated near the top of his class. He attended Texas A&M University, and worked his way through by waiting on tables and operating candy and tailoring concessions. During the summer months, he built bookcases, which he sold to incoming freshmen. In his third year of college, Mitchell hired a printer to develop gold-embossed A&M stationary, which he sold through a network of distributors on campus. By his senior year, he was earning $300 a month.
Mitchell graduated first in his class with a degree in petroleum engineering. He accepted a job with Amoco in Louisiana, but was called to active duty with the Army Corps of Engineers one month before Pearl Harbor. Four years later, after his honorable discharge, Mitchell became a consultant with several backers paying $50 a month to invest in his company. He was acting on advice he had received from a college professor who told all petroleum engineering students to strike out on their own at some point. Eventually, his company met with great success and was one of the largest oil and gas producers in the nation, as well as one of the largest real estate developers in the Houston-Galveston region. He employed 3,000 people and drilled more than 150 wells a day. In 1992, Inc. magazine named him Master Entrepreneur of the Year.
In the 1960s, Mitchell's development corporation created the Woodlands, an area 27 miles north of Houston that provides residences for 150,000 people and an employment base for 80,000. It was named the best project in the world by Prix d'Excellence Award. Mitchell said, "If you want to create something, you have to have a vision."
Today, Mitchell's GPM, Inc. has incorporated $100 million into the historic Stand Seaport area on Galveston Island. His vision there has created a vibrant neighborhood of museums, offices, apartments, shops, hotels, and restaurants. Looking at the challenges youth face today, Mitchell said, "There's a lot more competition today, but the avenues are still there."* Deceased