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Former Sen. George Mitchell to Join SIPA's Center for International Conflict Resolution

By James Devitt

Former Senator George Mitchell

Former U.S. Senator George Mitchell (D-Me.) will be joining Columbia as a senior fellow at its School of International and Public Affairs (SIPA). Mitchell, who helped broker the 1998 Good Friday Agreement for Northern Ireland, will conduct lectures and issue briefings for faculty as part of SIPA's newly formed Center for International Conflict Resolution.

Mitchell officially joins the University on July 1, 2002, but will give an address on international conflict resolution at SIPA on Thursday, Jan. 24, at 5:30 p.m. (15TH Floor, International Affairs Building), when he will be introduced to faculty and students. In addition, SIPA Dean Lisa Anderson and Andrea Bartoli, a senior research scholar at the Center for International Conflict Resolution, will deliver remarks on the academy's role in international conflict resolution.

"We are delighted to have a statesman of Senator Mitchell's stature as part of our School of International and Public Affairs," said Columbia President George Rupp. "As a Senator and practitioner of conflict resolution he has commanded the respect of leaders, both in this country and abroad."

Added Columbia Provost Jonathan Cole, "The entire Columbia community will benefit from Senator Mitchell's knowledge and experience, based on his many successes as a public official and as an ambassador for peace."

"Senator Mitchell has a fine record of accomplishment on the international stage," said retired Lt. Gen. Brent Scowcroft, who earned masters ('53) and doctoral ('67) degrees at Columbia and was National Security Advisor to former President George Bush. "He has been very deft in making inroads for peace in some of the world's most troubled regions. He will be a valuable asset to Columbia."

"Senator Mitchell has been a great public servant with the best diplomatic skills and the tenacity to get things done," said former Secretary of State Madeleine K. Albright, another Columbia graduate (MA '68, Ph.D. '76). "His work in Northern Ireland and the Middle East has been both incredible and invaluable."

"I am delighted to have Senator Mitchell join the SIPA community," said Anderson. "His numerous diplomatic and legislative achievements have had a profound impact on the United States and the international community. His appointment continues the school's success in attracting top-flight public officials and professionals who bring a wealth of experience into the classroom."

Mitchell, who served in the U.S. Senate for 14 years, was chairman of the peace negotiations in Northern Ireland. Under his leadership, the Good Friday Agreement was agreed to by governments of Ireland and the United Kingdom as well as the political parties in Northern Ireland. Voters in Northern Ireland and the Irish Republic endorsed the agreement in May 1998. In 2001, the Bush administration adopted as its policy in the Middle East the recommendations put forth by an international committee Mitchell chaired for ending the violence between Israelis and Palestinians.

Mitchell also served as Chairman of the International Commission on Disarmament in Northern Ireland, at the request of the British and Irish governments, and as chairman of the International Crisis Group, a non-profit organization dedicated to the prevention of crises in international affairs.

Mitchell was appointed to the U.S. Senate in 1980 to complete the unexpired term of Senator Edmund Muskie, who became President Jimmy Carter's secretary of state. Mitchell was elected to a full term in 1982. He was reelected in 1988 and became Senate majority leader in 1989. Mitchell, who chose to not run for re-election in 1994, led the successful 1990 reauthorization of the Clean Air Act, which included new controls on acid rain toxins, and was the author of the first national oil spill prevention and clean-up law. For six consecutive years, he was voted "the most respected member" of the Senate by a bipartisan group of senior congressional aides.

Mitchell led the Senate to passage of the nation's first child-care bill and was principal author of the low-income housing tax credit program. He was instrumental in the passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act, landmark legislation extending civil rights protections to the disabled.

Mitchell received his undergraduate degree from Bowdoin College in 1954. After a two-year stint in Berlin as an officer in the U.S. Army Counter-Intelligence Corps, he attended law school at Georgetown University, where he received an LL.B. in 1960. From 1960 to 1962 he was a trial lawyer in the Justice Department in Washington, D.C. From 1962 to 1965 he served as Executive Assistant to Senator Muskie. In 1965 he returned to Maine where he engaged in the private practice of law in Portland until 1977. He was then appointed U.S. Attorney for Maine, a position he held until 1979, when he was appointed U.S. District Judge for Maine. He resigned that position in 1980 to accept appointment to the U.S. Senate.

With former U.S. Senator and former Defense Secretary William Cohen (R-Me.), he wrote "Men of Zeal: A Candid Inside Story of the Iran Contra Hearings" (Viking 1988). He has also authored "World on Fire: Saving an Endangered Earth" (Simon and Schuster 1991), a description of the greenhouse effect and recommendations for curbing it, "Not for America Alone: The Triumph of Democracy and the Fall of Communism" (Kodansha 1997) and "Making Peace" (Knopf 1999), an account of his experience in Northern Ireland.

For his service in Northern Ireland, Mitchell has received the presidential Medal of Freedom, the federal government's highest civilian honor, as well as the Philadelphia Liberty Medal, the Truman Institute Peace Prize and the German Peace Prize.

Mitchell is currently chairman of the Washington, D.C. law firm of Verner, Liipfert, Bernhard, McPherson and Hand and senior counsel to the Portland, Me., firm of Preti, Flaherty, Beliveau, Pachios & Haley. He is president of the Economic Club of Washington, and served as chair of the Special Commission investigating allegations of impropriety in the bidding process for the Olympic games and as chairman of the National Health Care Commission. In December 2001, the American Red Cross named Mitchell as the independent overseer of the organization's Liberty Fund, which was created to assist victims of the September 11 terrorist attacks.

He serves as a director of several companies, including the Walt Disney Company and Federal Express Corporation.

Published: Jan 24, 2002
Last modified:Sep 18, 2002


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