New administrator up for a challenge

David Mitchell, vice-principal (advancement) looks to outdo his predecessor

David Mitchell is confident he can improve on former vice-principal George Hood’s campaign.
David Mitchell is confident he can improve on former vice-principal George Hood’s campaign.
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David Mitchell, newly appointed vice-principal (advancement), has big shoes to fill—but he’s not worried.

After all, Mitchell took the high-profile job because he was intrigued by the challenge.

“It’s both a challenge and an opportunity,” he said. “It provides the opportunity to play the role of matchmaker.”

The vice-principal (advancement) job involves raising money and deal-making for Queen’s from alumni, donors and corporations, and comes with a salary of $279, 147.14.

Mitchell is looking forward to connecting with alumni and building mutually beneficial relationships, he said. He also wants to put students and faculty members in touch with prominent alumni.

“That’s what turns me on,” he said.

His job as the University of Ottawa’s vice-president of university relations was similar to the job he’ll be doing at Queen’s, he said. And he’s confident he’s great at what he does.

George Hood, who retired from the position in December, led the most successful fundraising campaign Queen’s has seen to date, raising $282 million.

Mitchell said he’s eager to take on the task of bringing in even more money for the school.

“I’m looking forward to building on that significantly,” he said.

He said his last campaign is comparable to Hood’s. Over the past four years, he raised $226 million for the University of Ottawa as their vice-president of university relations, which is also the most successful campaign run there.

“How could the University of Ottawa raise as much as Queen’s?” he asked. “It shouldn’t—Queen’s should raise a lot more.”

Mitchell knows Queen’s well by reputation, he said, and he thinks donors do as well.

Mitchell said his varied experience in the workforce has prepared him for what he sees as an exciting road ahead. In addition to completing a similar job at the University of Ottawa, he has worked at Simon Fraser University, in politics, the media and the private sector.

“I have a very generalist background,” he said. “[This job] requires someone not to be highly specialized.”

Mitchell’s going to focus on building relationships with prominent alumni, corporations, governments, foundations and NGOs.

“When you build strong relationships, something magical happens. That something is fundraising,” he said.

He knows what it takes to get philanthropists to donate, he said.

“People don’t give to needs. Philanthropists … do not give to needs. It sounds sad to say, but it’s true. They give to ideas, give to vision, give to passion.”

Mitchell officially started his post on Sept. 4, but said he’s been meeting unofficially with administrators through the summer to ease his transition. The most difficult challenge on his first day, he said, was finding his way “the construction site that is now Queen’s University.”

“It’s a challenge to get around and meet people in different buildings.”

The self-labeled political junkie didn’t grow up wanting to be a university administrator.

“I grew up wanting to become a writer,” he said. “I actually think people stumble into what might appear their chosen line of work.”

The Ottawa Citizen had dubbed him a “fundraising star”, and he said fundraising for Queen’s won’t be difficult for him.

“Once relationships are formed, fundraising will be easy, I’m convinced of it,” he said. “It’s a job that’s not for everyone, but for the right person it can be quite satisfying.”

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