Profile: Board of Overseers Chair Andrea Mitchell, CW’67

Saturday, December 31, 2016

Andrea Mitchell, CW’67

As a freshman, Andrea Mitchell’s future was changed by a side trip down a Penn hallway. The 1967 College for Women graduate has been following leads—and making a difference at Penn Arts and Sciences—ever since.

Mitchell, who today is the Chief Foreign Affairs Correspondent for NBC and chair of the Penn Arts and Sciences Board of Overseers, grew up in a home overflowing with political discussions and music. She almost went to Julliard or another music school, but decided she wanted a broader viewpoint.

“When I chose Penn—or Penn chose me—it was a big decision for me,” she says. “But I wanted to get a liberal arts education because it would open all of the doors for me. I think you really need those years to explore, to develop, to do something unusual, unexpected—and then, when you have a whole menu of choices, decide where your heart leads.”

Her own something unexpected happened the day she heard classical music while on her way to a meeting in Houston Hall, and went to find out more. She discovered Penn’s radio station, WXPN, which was then run by students. “I had always thought of myself as a writer,” Mitchell says. “I had never thought about broadcasting, but that’s how it all started.”

She became the first female program director at WXPN. After graduating with a degree in English Literature, she began her professional broadcasting career in Philadelphia at KYW Newsradio covering local and national politics.

Since 1978, Mitchell has been a network correspondent for NBC News. Based in Washington, D.C., her assignments have included White House Correspondent during the Reagan and Clinton administrations, Chief Congressional Correspondent, and, since 1994, Chief Foreign Affairs Correspondent. She reports on evolving political, foreign policy, and national security issues in the U.S. and abroad, and presidential campaigns, most recently as the lead NBC News Correspondent covering Hillary Clinton’s campaign for the White House. Mitchell hosts a daily program on MSNBC, Andrea Mitchell Reports, and published her memoir, “Talking Back,” in 2006.

Mitchell stayed engaged with Penn Arts and Sciences as an alumna, and in 1989 she was invited to join the School’s Board of Overseers. “This was before [Deans] Sam Preston, Rebecca Bushnell, and now Steve Fluharty made Arts and Sciences what it is today,” she says. “I’ve been able to participate as they each designed and carried out their visions to keep the School at the forefront of liberal arts education in the country and the world.”

She has served as a University of Pennsylvania Trustee since 1992 and is currently the vice chair. She was also a co-chair of the steering committee for Making History, the transformative campaign that raised $4.3 billion for the University.

Mitchell’s own giving is inspired by the School’s mission and by her lifelong passions. She and husband Alan Greenspan, HON’98, have endowed two Penn Integrates Knowledge professorships. The first is held by Robert Ghrist, one of the world’s leading applied mathematicians, in an appointment shared between Penn Arts and Sciences and Penn Engineering. Beth Simmons, a world-renowned authority on international relations and human rights, is the second Andrea Mitchell University Professor, with joint faculty appointments in Penn Arts and Sciences and the Law School. Mitchell also supports the Kelly Writers House and The Music Department Performance Fund.

This long history drew her back in January to serve as the chair of the School’s Board of Overseers. “I feel like it took time to understand why Penn Arts and Sciences is so important,” says Mitchell. “My involvement over more than two decades, along with the way my own liberal arts education makes a difference in my life, has made me realize how special and unique the School is. It’s at the center of the University, and the core of everything I discovered here when I came in 1963.”