SWU Alumnus of Century passes away at 92
Dr. Virgil Mitchell of Central died at his home Saturday at age 92. Mitchell, who served in a number of key positions at Southern Wesleyan University, was named the institution’s Alumnus of the Century at a ceremony in May.
Southern Wesleyan President David Spittal said the university will miss Mitchell’s involvement and advice.
“Dr. Mitchell was an outstanding friend of the university and was a valued advisor to several presidents, including myself,” Spittal said. “He was a man of faith who touched the lives of many through his prayers and encouragement. He was one of my heroes and he will be missed.”
Mitchell participated in the university’s 50th and 75th anniversary celebrations, as well as marking its centennial. Last week, he participated via telephone in a prayer walk at Southern Wesleyan University that commemorated 100 years since classes first began there in 1906. The grand finale for Southern Wesleyan University’s centennial celebration will be on Saturday at its campus in Central.
“The Alumni Association and I are in great mourning about the loss of a devoted alumnus and friend of the university,” said Joy Bryant, alumni director. “We’re so sad he won’t be a part of our grand finale on Oct. 28, but we know his spirit will be there with us.”
Dr. Bob Black, Southern Wesleyan religion professor and author of the institution’s 100-year history, “How Firm a Foundation,” said Mitchell had an enormous impact on the university.
“When a great tree falls, it leaves an empty space against the sky. Virgil Mitchell will be missed more than we can say, more than we can realize. We may not see his like again. But in his legacy among us he lives on,” Black said.
Mitchell addressed Southern Wesleyan University’s graduating seniors at the winter 2005 baccalaureate service.
“God must be the foundation of your life if you are to fulfill the purposes he has for you,” Dr. Mitchell told the students. “It is important to follow your blueprint – the word of God.”
Visitation with the Mitchell family is Oct. 23 at Duckett Robinson Funeral Home in Central at 2 to 4 p.m. and at 7 to 9 p.m.
Funeral services will be Oct. 24 at 2 p.m. at First Wesleyan Church in Central. Burial will follow at Hillcrest Gardens Cemetery in Pickens.
Memorials may be given to Hephzibah Children’s Home in Georgia or Southern Wesleyan University in Central. Online condolences may be expressed at www.robinsonfuneralhomes.com.
Mitchell is survived by his wife, Mary Luck Parks Mitchell; daughters, Marilyn Hollingsworth and Martha Funnell of Michigan; grandsons, Alton Allen Hollingsworth and Adrian Allen Funnell; brothers, Joseph Carlton Mitchell of Oklahoma and Charles Mitchell of Simpsonville; sisters, Edna Mitchell and Mary Ellen Kelley of Simpsonville; and many nieces and nephews. He was preceded in death by his parents; his son, Allen; a brother, Franklin Eugene; and a sister, Vera Mitchell Peek.
Mitchell was born on a farm in Six Mile in 1914 and was the second of nine children. He graduated from Six Mile High School in 1934, where he was voted “the most studious, courteous and talented” boy in the class.
He attended junior college at Central Wesleyan College, now named Southern Wesleyan University, and completed his degree in 1937 and went on to complete his Th.B. degree in 1943.
Mitchell married Mary Parks, his college sweetheart, in March 1937 and they shared 69 years of marriage and three children.
He began his ministry in 1934 and served as pastor and General Secretary of Extension and Evangelism. Mitchell was later elected as president of Southern Wesleyan University in 1968, but was elected general superintendent of the Wesleyan Church before he could take office. He served as general superintendent, the denomination’s highest office, for 21 years.
After his retirement in 1984 at age 70, Mitchell was appointed as assistant to the president and chaplain of Southern Wesleyan and served in this capacity until 1994. He also served as a distinguished member of the Southern Wesleyan University Board of Trustees and designated as the first trustee emeritus in 1984.