COLUMBIA — Roger L. Mitchell died at home in Columbia on Tuesday, June 4, 2013, after being diagnosed with leukemia more than 10 years ago. He was 80.
Dr. Mitchell was born on Sept. 13, 1932 in Grinnell, Iowa, to Robert Truman Mitchell and Cecile Lowry Mitchell, and grew up on a farm on the edge of town. He was the first member of his family to attend college.
Dr. Mitchell met Joyce Lindgren at Iowa State, and they were married June 26, 1955. They were blessed to have four daughters.
Dr. Mitchell earned a Bachelor of Science in agronomy at Iowa State in 1954 and a Master of Science in agronomy at Cornell University in 1958, after serving in the Air Force at San Antonio from 1954-1956.
Dr. Mitchell returned to Iowa State and completed his doctorate in crop physiology in 1961. He was offered a position there in teaching and research after completing his degree. He directed a farm operation curriculum with more than 500 students and advisees. He also led Iowa State students on agriculture travel courses in the United States in 1962 and in Europe in 1964 which, he said, whetted his and his wife’s lifetime love of travel.
Dr. Mitchell came to Columbia, in 1969 to become chair of agronomy at MU, then the dean of the MU Extension division in 1972. He left in 1975 to serve as vice president for agriculture at Kansas State University, then returned to MU to fill the chair of agronomy in 1981.
He was asked to be MU’s dean of Agriculture, Food & Natural Resources in 1983, which he did until his retirement in September 1998.
During his career as the dean of Agriculture, new funding became available that provided Dr. Mitchell the opportunity to lead a program called “Food for the 21st Century” that became the foundation for increased interdisciplinary research efforts in the Life Sciences. Years later, he had the wonderful experience of being present at the dedication of the new Bond Life Sciences Building on MU that he had first envisioned 25 years before.
Dr. Mitchell rejoiced in his family, in travel and in community service. He and his wife enjoyed 57 years of a very special marriage. Dr. Mitchell was always active in the community, in the Methodist Church in many leadership positions, and with the Central Missouri Food Bank.
After his retirement, Dr. Mitchell and his wife increased their international travels and created wonderful family events for their own and their extended families. Dr. Mitchell also increased his involvement at the Food Bank for Central and Northeast Missouri, serving on the board of directors, and joined the Golden K Kiwanis Club, which he very much enjoyed. He continued to be very active at Missouri United Methodist Church, and co-led an important capital campaign there in the past two years.
Nellene Martin has been a special caregiver during this time of illness.
Dr. Mitchell is survived by his wife, Joyce; four daughters, Laura Grace Mitchell of Minneapolis, Susan Smith of Fairway, Kan., and Columbia, Sarah Feyerherm of Shawnee Kan., and Martha Cecille Mitchell of Las Cruces, N.M.; sons-in-law Brian Smith, Roger Feyerhem, and Shaun Cooper; and seven grandchildren, Ben and Nick Smith, Winona Vetsch, Anna and Mitchell Feyerherm and John and David Cooper.
The Memorial Service, and a reception following, will be held at 3 p.m.. Wednesday at the Missouri United Methodist Church, 204 S. Ninth St.
There will be graveside services and interment of ashes in the Missouri United Methodist Church Memorial Gardens and Chester Township Cemetery near Grinnell, Iowa at a later time.
In lieu of flowers, Dr. Mitchell suggested that friends might wish to make a memorial contribution to: The Roger and Joyce Mitchell Scholarship in MU’s College of Agriculture, Food and Natural Resources; The Roger L. Mitchell Fellow Award (contact Heidi Griswold at MU, 884-0635); or The Food Bank of Central and Northeast Missouri (2101 Vandiver Drive, Columbia MO, 65202).
Online condolences may be left at memorialfuneralhomeandcemetery.com