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Tyrone Mitchell

Chemist and federal government administrator Tyrone D. Mitchell was born on May 6, 1939 in New Orleans, Louisiana. Mitchell was taught by an excellent chemistry teacher at L.B. Landry High School who reinforced his interest in science. He received his B.A. degree in chemistry from Dillard University in New Orleans and earned his M.S. degree in organic chemistry from the University of Pittsburgh in 1964. Mitchell then joined General Electric Company (GE) as a process chemist. In 1971, he became an associate staff chemist at General Electric R & D Center. Mitchell received his Ph.D. degree in polymer chemistry from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in Troy, New York.

After completing his education, Mitchell joined General Electric Silicones as a senior chemist. In 1990, after twenty-five years, he left GE, with the company, having co-authored sixteen technical publications. During his time there, he received more than twenty-five United States patents in the areas of organosilicon chemistry, polymer chemistry and the synthesis of adhesion promoters for use in silicone sealants. The products he helped to develop produced over $100 million in annual sales in 1990. He joined Corning Incorporated where he worked in developing new coatings for optical fibers. Mitchell held a number of management positions in the Science & Technology Division at Corning, where he sought out new technology to improve Corning’s research and development projects. In 2000, he retired from Corning to serve as a program officer in the Organic and Macromolecular Chemistry Program at the National Science Foundation (NSF). In 2003, he was promoted to program director of the Organic and Macromolecular Chemistry Program.

Mitchell has served on the Board of Directors of the National Organization for the Professional Advancement of Black Chemists and Chemical Engineers, the Center for Advanced Materials Processing at Clarkson University and the Technology Transfer Society. He was a member of the Chemistry Section Committee of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) and a member-at-large to the Industrial Science & Technology Section of AAAS. In 2006, he was inducted as an AAAS fellow. Mitchell is married to Sandra Parker Mitchell and they have three children: Tracey, Tyrone, Jr. and Todd.

Tyrone D. Mitchell was interviewed by The HistoryMakers on June 27, 2012.

Accession Number

A2012.152

Sex

Male

Interview Date

6/27/2012 |and| 7/17/2012

6/27/2012

7/17/2012

Last Name

Mitchell

Maker Category
Marital Status

Marrried

Schools

L.b. Landry High School

Dillard University

University of Pittsburgh

Rennselaer Polytechnic Institute

Renselaer Polytechnic Institute

Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute

Search Occupation Category
First Name

Tyrone

Birth City, State, Country

New Orleans

HM ID

MIT12

Favorite Season

Fall

State

Louisiana

Favorite Vacation Destination

New Orleans, Louisiana

Favorite Quote

There are a lot of things I don't do, but nothing I won't do.

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

District of Columbia

Interview Description
Birth Date

5/6/1939

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

Washington

Country

USA

Favorite Food

Gumbo (New Orleans)

Short Description

Chemist and federal government administrator Tyrone Mitchell (1939 - ) serves as the National Foundation program director of Organic and Macromolecular Chemistry and holds twenty-five patents in the field of silicone and polymer chemistry.

Employment

National Science Foundation (NSF)

Corning Incorporated

General Electric Company

Favorite Color

Blue

Timing Pairs
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DAStories

Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of Tyrone Mitchell's interview

Tape: 1 Story: 2 - Tyrone Mitchell lists his favorites

Tape: 1 Story: 3 - Tyrone Mitchell describes his mother's family background

Tape: 1 Story: 4 - Tyrone Mitchell describes his father's family background

Tape: 1 Story: 5 - Tyrone Mitchell talks about his father's work experience

Tape: 1 Story: 6 - Tyrone Mitchell talks about how his parents met

Tape: 1 Story: 7 - Tyrone Mitchell talks about his siblings

Tape: 1 Story: 8 - Tyrone Mitchell talks about his parents' personalities

Tape: 1 Story: 9 - Tyrone Mitchell describes his earliest childhood memory

Tape: 1 Story: 10 - Tyrone Mitchell describes the neighborhoods where he grew up

Tape: 1 Story: 11 - Tyrone Mitchell describes the sights, sounds, and smells of growing up - part one

Tape: 2 Story: 1 - Tyrone Mitchell describes the sights, sounds, and smells of growing up - part two

Tape: 2 Story: 2 - Tyrone Mitchell talks about his involvement in church

Tape: 2 Story: 3 - Tyrone Mitchell talks about his childhood activities

Tape: 2 Story: 4 - Tyrone Mitchell describes his early education

Tape: 2 Story: 5 - Tyrone Mitchell describes his interdiction to science

Tape: 2 Story: 6 - Tyrone Mitchell describes his thoughts about college as a young person

Tape: 2 Story: 7 - Tyrone Mitchell talks about living with his Aunt Edna

Tape: 2 Story: 8 - Tyrone Mitchell talks about L. B. Landry High School

Tape: 3 Story: 1 - Tyrone Mitchell talks about his high school interests and activities

Tape: 3 Story: 2 - Tyrone Mitchell talks about the space race and the focus on science in the 1950s

Tape: 3 Story: 3 - Tyrone Mitchell talks about the guidance and advice he received from his high school teachers

Tape: 3 Story: 4 - Tyrone Mitchell talks about his decision to attend Dillard University

Tape: 3 Story: 5 - Tyrone Mitchell describes the chemistry department at Dillard University

Tape: 3 Story: 6 - Tyrone Mitchell describes his research of azides with Dr. Jan Hamer

Tape: 3 Story: 7 - Tyrone Mitchell talks about his organic chemistry courses

Tape: 3 Story: 8 - Tyrone Mitchell talks about his decision to attend graduate school

Tape: 3 Story: 9 - Tyrone Mitchell describes the faculty at the University of Pittsburgh

Tape: 3 Story: 10 - Tyrone Mitchell talks about his preparation for graduate school and his mentor, Dr. Claiborne Griffin

Tape: 4 Story: 1 - Tyrone Mitchell talks about being hired to work for General Electric

Tape: 4 Story: 2 - Tyrone Mitchell describes his work at General Electric

Tape: 4 Story: 3 - Tyrone Mitchell talks about his doctoral studies (part 1)

Tape: 4 Story: 4 - Tyrone Mitchell talks about his doctoral studies (part 2)

Tape: 4 Story: 5 - Tyrone Mitchell describes his doctoral research on reactions of esters with amines

Tape: 4 Story: 6 - Tyrone Mitchell talks about his patents and his work with aminosilanes at General Electric

Tape: 5 Story: 1 - Tyrone Mitchell talks about silicon breast implants

Tape: 5 Story: 2 - Tyrone Mitchell summarizes his work at General Electric

Tape: 5 Story: 3 - Tyrone Mitchell describes his decision to work at Corning Incorporated

Tape: 5 Story: 4 - Tyrone Mitchell talks about his efforts to improve diversity at Corning Incorported

Tape: 5 Story: 5 - Tyrone Mitchell talks about Corning's efforts to increase the minority representation in graduate school

Tape: 5 Story: 6 - Tyrone Mitchell talks about Corning's efforts to improve conditions for women

Tape: 6 Story: 1 - Slating of Tyrone Mitchell's interview

Tape: 6 Story: 2 - Tyrone Mitchell talks about his decision to work at Corning Incorporated

Tape: 6 Story: 3 - Tyrone Mitchell talks about his work at Corning Incorporated

Tape: 6 Story: 4 - Tyrone Mitchell talks about Corning Incorporated's efforts to employ more women and minorities

Tape: 6 Story: 5 - Tyrone Mitchell talks about the leadership at Corning Incorporated

Tape: 6 Story: 6 - Tyrone Mitchell talks about Historically Black Colleges and Corning Incorporated

Tape: 6 Story: 7 - Tyrone Mitchell compares General Electric and Corning International

Tape: 7 Story: 1 - Tyrone Mitchell talks about leaving Corning Incorporated's employment

Tape: 7 Story: 2 - Tyrone Mitchell talks about going to work for the National Science Foundation

Tape: 7 Story: 3 - Tyrone Mitchell talks about his wife and his family life

Tape: 7 Story: 4 - Tyrone Mitchell describes his work as program director for the National Science Foundation

Tape: 7 Story: 5 - Tyrone Mitchell talks about the nation's focus on STEM and federal funding

Tape: 8 Story: 1 - Tyrone Mitchell talks about his move to the National Science Foundation

Tape: 8 Story: 2 - Tyrone Mitchell discusses the presence of African Americans at the National Science Foundation

Tape: 8 Story: 3 - Tyrone Mitchell talks about honors he has received

Tape: 8 Story: 4 - Tyrone Mitchell talks about funding for the National Science Foundation

Tape: 8 Story: 5 - Tyrone Mitchell talks about the importance of research for smaller institutions

Tape: 9 Story: 1 - Tyrone Mitchell talks about resources available to small schools

Tape: 9 Story: 2 - Tyrone Mitchell talks about Historically Black Colleges and the importance of a research focus

Tape: 9 Story: 3 - Tyrone Mitchell talks about his legacy

Tape: 9 Story: 4 - Tyrone Mitchell reflects on his career

Tape: 9 Story: 5 - Tyrone Mitchell shares his hopes and concerns for the African American Community

Tape: 9 Story: 6 - Tyrone Mitchell talks about his children (part 1)

Tape: 10 Story: 1 - Tyrone Mitchell talks about his children (part 2)

Tape: 10 Story: 2 - Tyrone Mitchell tells how he would like to be remembered

Tape: 10 Story: 3 - Tyrone Mitchell describes his photos

DASession

1$2

DATape

3$7

DAStory

7$2

DATitle
Tyrone Mitchell talks about his organic chemistry courses
Tyrone Mitchell talks about going to work for the National Science Foundation
Transcript
But like I say, Dr. Hamer was outstanding. And he actually left Dillard and went to, became a professor at Tulane [University], once he got established. But we were fortunate enough to get him for organic chemistry, and like I say, he became, he became a mentor and made sure that we learned what we had to learn because at the time he taught organic chemistry, but desegregation of some of the schools was happening during our time in college. And there was a new school. It's called LSU New Orleans. LSU [Louisiana State University] had a campus in New Orleans. And one of his good friends, Dr. Jack Stocker, S-T-O-C-K-E-R, was teaching a summer course. And it was the same course he taught. He taught an organic chemistry course. Dr. Jack Stocker was gonna teach an organic chemistry, the summer course, which was the same course he taught, except he's teaching it out of a new book by, called, by authors 'Morrison and Boyd.' Now, Morris and Boyd became like the bible of organic chemistry during my time, and every, most schools were using that because it taught chemistry in a different way. It taught organic chemistry in a different way, (unclear) mechanistically. Before organic chemistry was memorization. But they taught using mechanisms and things of that sort. So Hamer insisted, not insisted, but he encouraged Sandra and I to go to LSU in New Orleans and take the summer course from Dr. Stocker. And it was like, the school had just integrated. So after, the summer after we took organic chemistry from him, we went to, I took that summer at LSU in New Orleans, which now is called the University of New Orleans, but then it was LSU-NO, in New Orleans. So I took the course, and I did quite well in the course. But the interesting thing about that is that the class was all white students, and Sandra and I were the only black students in that class. And these white students had never been to class with blacks before. So they accepted it, but one thing that they would do is when we--if they got to class before us, wherever we sat, they would move, get up all and move to the other side of the room or to the back of the room or to the corner of the room. So we used to play games with them. We'd wait till they get seated, then we go in, and we'd sit down. And they would (laughter), they would all get up and move. So, but we'd, that was the whole summer. But, but, you know, Dr. Stocker was fair, and he taught the course, and I did very well. I worked the problems and made, made a decent grade in that course. And that was--$$I'm just saying, this is the first time, this is the first time that LSU was integrated like that?$$Yeah, they'd just integrated LSU, yes.$$Okay.$$It'd just been integrated. And, and Dr. Hamer told us, encouraged us to go and take the course that summer 'cause he knew we would learn--and that course is really what got me, cemented my interests in organic chemistry and actually helped me to be more competitive when I went to graduate school. And it really prepared me very well for going to graduate school.$And one of the things I thought, I always wanted to do, well, all my whole career, I wanted to teach in a university. I wanted to, and I thought having been in industry for thirty-some years, I thought that--and having worked with the interns and with young people, I saw it as a value to take and go and teach at a university and try to bring these skills and bring these connections I had and try to help those students to plan their careers, whether they wanted to go into research or industry or whatever they wanted to do, and to be aware of the landscape. And I thought I could help them with that in becoming, into making that transition and understanding what is required when you go to work anywhere, you know, any kind of work that you go to do. You know, you have to, you have to understand the culture that you're going into, and the other thing I always tell students is that you, there's no substitute for working hard. You have to work hard. Okay, there's just no way to get around that. And I always point out that even though I've been in my career for all these years, I still end up working nights and weekends because you have goals to meet, and you have to meet those goals. And it becomes, you know, if you're self-motivated, then you'll do that. And a lot of young people that I mentor have done quite well and been successful by following that advice. So I thought I wanted to do something differently. And so I got, I worked to get my, put a CV together, and I started sending it out. And I sent it to, I, I was, I guess I was a little naive because I sent it to two schools that I thought I definitely would like to, to work at, that I thought had the infrastructure, and I thought that I could really bring a lot of value to that school as a research scientist and as a chemist and as a person that worked with young people and a person who had contacts and knew the industrial area and knew, and, and having the technology transfer stuff, I had a lot of contacts at universities and so I put together a CV, and I sent it to two schools. Maybe I should have blanketed it, sent it to more schools. But I sent it to two schools that I was interested in, two HBCUs [Historically Black Colleges and Universities] that I was interested in transitioning to. And to my surprise, I never heard back from them. And after a few months, I called them, and they said, oh, we lost your, must have misplaced your CV. And they, they said, send us another copy. So meanwhile, when this is, when this was going on, I had served on a number of boards, okay. And I was on a board of, when I was at Corning, I served on the Center for Advanced Materials processing. It's a board, it was an entity at Clarkson University that was funded by the state. And the State of New York funds a number of different centers, about ten or twelve centers throughout the state. And they get something like a million dollars a year or something in that ballpark, and New York Centers of Excellence. And each of these centers are located at universities throughout the State of New York. And they all have an expertise that, that university will take and, area they'd work in, to try and develop technology in the state and make jobs in those regions that they're located. Well, Clarkson, being in upstate New York, had a Center for Advanced Materials Processing. When I was on the board of that center, one of the things Corning was a supporter, and in my technology assessment capacity, I managed a lot of those activities in terms of giving funding. So I managed the funding that went to these different university centers, like there was one at Cornell, one at SUNY Albany [State University of New York, Albany], and if part of the money that I'm, part of the Vice President of Research's budget, then I managed those activities and sat on the boards and things of that sort. Well, the director of the Center for Advanced Materials Processing had, had stepped down as the director of that. He had been there the whole time I was there, and I know him, knew him very well. And he had come to NSF [National Science Foundation] to do a rotation as a program director, as a program director in the chemistry division. And when I was waiting to hear from these universities, he contacted me. He said, Ty, you really should look at doing a rotation as a program director at NSF, as a rotator 'cause they brought in rotators. NSF brings in people from universities to come in and spend a couple of years helping with the, with the review process and funding process. But they didn't, they didn't recruit many people from industry. And my, my friend from Clarkson, what was his name? Ray, Ray--I've forgot his name at the moment, he, he actually encouraged me to send my CV to NSF. And when I did, they invited me in to give a talk. I came in, and I talked about some of the research I had done at Corning. I also talked about the management, some of the management activities I had done. And, and lo and behold, I got an offer from them to come and be a rotator at NSF. And meanwhile, I still hadn't heard from the universities that I was interested in transitioning to. So I decided to do that for a couple, for at least two years--it was a two-year appointment, while I sought out the other part of, of going, becoming part of a university faculty. And after working there, I enjoyed the work, and I saw an opportunity to really, to really make a difference in some of the funding activities.