Claude E. Mitchell ’10 O-1

Omicron Oracle

January 30, 1969

This brief biography of Brother Mitchell was written by Ernst J.C. Fischer ’10 O-34 for the February 1969 Omicron Oracle.

When Claude Ellsworth Mitchell, or Mitch, as we called him then, first got off the train in Etna, he had all of five dollars on his person. As was the custom, I met Mitch at the train and brought him to the apartment where I was staying with Dick Kiliani and George W. Griffith. That was in the spring of 1908.

There was no Lambda Chi Alpha at Cornell then. And the members of ISWZA were living in separate apartments off campus. Mitch wanted to get a bunk in the fire house on Eddy Street— in those days they allowed a few students to sleep in the fire house, hoping to make them volunteer firemen. There were all kinds of hash foundries in basements along Eddy Street, where Mitch wanted to get a job waiting on table for his board. Mitch was so poor that he couldn't afford to register in the school of Engineering; he had to settle for Landscape Architecture in the Ag building, that being the nearest he could come to Engineering with a state scholarship.

At the time, “Toot” Brandt was staying for an extra year pursuing PreMed work on the campus. When Toot met Mitch, he noticed that among Mitch's belongings was a music case and immediately introduced him to Patsy Conway, the only band and orchestra leader in Ithaca. Mitch blew his cornet for five years, making ten dollars a week—good pay, and enough to allow him to rent a room ($3.25 weekly), and pay for his own meals ($2.75 a week and up, depending upon one's choice of viands). Mitch graduated in 1912, but he felt that he wanted more education and returned in the fall to begin his fifth year.

In those days of Lambda Chi Alpha expansion, it was the custom to list the initiates at an installation by classes, first the seniors, then the three following classes. However, at Omicron there was a graduate student — Claude Ellsworth Mitchell. He was given priority over the entire group of undergraduates — and that's how he became No. one on the chapter roll.

Mitch’s story is an outstanding example of fraternities not necessarily being for rich students—they will make it if they have initiative and will power. I doubt that in the history of Omicron there has been an alumnus who returned more often to the house than Mitch. We’d all do well to follow his example.