New scholarship to benefit engineering students from the Coal Region

January 18, 2024

By Mariah R. Lucas

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — A mechanical engineering alumnus honored his late brothers and their Coal Region roots through an $800,000 gift to establish a scholarship in the Penn State College of Engineering. The Robert, John, and Edward Mitchell Family Endowed Scholarship Fund in the College of Engineering will help engineering students who hail from Pennsylvania’s Coal Region ⎯ or Schuylkill, Carbon, Columbia and Northumberland counties ⎯ in their pursuit to become engineers.  

From the town of Coaldale in Schuylkill County, Edward “Ed” Mitchell and his brothers Robert and John attended Penn State in the 1940s and 50s to receive degrees in mechanical engineering, chemical engineering and civil engineering, respectively. They were the first in their family to attend college. 

“We came from modest beginnings, so scholarship money was quite welcome,” Ed said. “I received a $50 senatorial scholarship during my time as a student, which seems small, but at that time, tuition began at $125 a semester!” 

Ed received a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering in 1953 and a master’s degree in mechanical engineering in 1955. As a graduate student, Ed worked as a research assistant studying diesel engine combustion under contract for the U.S. Navy, which was immediately applicable to the start of his career at the Texaco Research Center in Beacon, New York. He held various positions over his almost 40-year career with the company, beginning with research on engine combustion and domestic oil burners, then transitioning to supervision of the combustion, engine design and fuels additive development efforts. His career culminated with the honorary title of Texaco Fellow, one of the first five named at Texaco.  

In his later years with the company, Ed served as the Texaco representative on major cooperative industry efforts related to reducing vehicle emissions to improve air quality. He continued his contact with Penn State by serving on the Department of Mechanical Engineering’s Industrial and Professional Advisory Council in the mid-1980s.  

Robert, a 1949 graduate, used his chemical engineering degree at Sylvania Corporation in its television picture tube manufacturing plant in Seneca Falls, New York, while John, who graduated in 1958, started his career as a field engineer with the Pennsylvania Department of Highways before his death in March 1962. 

With the cost of tuition now far exceeding the $125 a semester that Ed remembers, he recognized that finances can prove to be a true barrier for many students.  

“Engineers solve the world’s problems, and this scholarship is intended to let some hard-working students from the Coal Region pursue their dreams while lessening their financial burden,” he said. 

The gift was made through an outright pledge of $500,000, and another $300,000 will be received from Ed’s estate. The scholarship will be awarded to an engineering student for one year with the opportunity of renewal for subsequent years. 

“We are grateful to Mr. Mitchell in his active engagement with and support of the College of Engineering over several decades,” said Tonya L. Peeples, the Harold and Inge Marcus Dean of Engineering. “The success he and his brothers enjoyed as Penn State-educated engineers speaks to our long-standing tradition of providing a top-tier education, and we appreciate his wish to pay it forward to help educate the next generation of builders, thinkers and innovators.”    

Gifts like the Robert, John, and Edward Mitchell Family Endowed Scholarship Fund in the College of Engineering advance the University’s historic land-grant mission to serve and lead. Through philanthropy, alumni and friends are helping students to join the Penn State family and prepare for lifelong success; driving research, outreach and economic development that grow our shared strength and readiness for the future; and increasing the University’s impact for families, patients, and communities across the Commonwealth and around the world. Learn more by visiting


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