Academy of Distinguished Alumni
James K. Mitchell Sc.D., P.E., N.A.E., N.A.S.
Inducted to the Academy of Distinguished Alumni on
James K. Mitchell received his B.S. (1951) degree in Civil Engineering from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, and his M.S. (1953) and Sc.D. (1956) degrees in Civil (Geotechnical) Engineering from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He joined the faculty of U.C. Berkeley in 1958 and held the Edward G. Cahill and John R. Cahill Chair in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering (CEE) at the time of his retirement from Berkeley in 1993. Concurrently, he was Research Engineer in the Institute of Transportation Studies and in the Earthquake Engineering Research Center. He was CEE Department Chair from 1979 through 1984. After retirement from Berkeley, Professor Mitchell was appointed in 1994 as the first Charles E. Via, Jr. Professor in the Via CEE Department at Virginia Tech. He became University Distinguished Professor in 1996 and University Distinguished Professor, Emeritus, in 1999. During his career, he supervised the dissertation research of 76 Ph.D. students and authored more than 375 publications, including the graduate level text and geotechnical reference, Fundamentals of Soil Behavior, that is widely used by geotechnical engineers around the world.
Over his career, Professor Mitchell has served as a consultant to numerous governmental and private organizations on geotechnical problems and earthwork projects of many types. More recent projects include the evaluation of seismic stability and design of liquefaction mitigation options for Success Dam and Isabella Dam (U.S. Army Corps of Engineers), Folsom Dam (U.S. Bureau of Reclamation), and San Pablo Dam (East Bay Municipal Water District), all in California. He has also served as a member of the Seismic Safety Peer Review Panel for the Bay Area Rapid Transit System and on the ACSE External Review Panel for the Performance Evaluation of Post-Katrina Hurricane and Flood Protection Projects around New Orleans.
Among his many honors, Professor Mitchell was awarded the ASCE Norman Medal in 1972 and 1995, the Thomas A. Middlebrooks Award (four times), the Walter L. Huber Research Prize, the Terzaghi Lecture Award, the Karl Terzaghi Award, the H. Bolton Seed Medal (2004) and the 2006 Outstanding Projects and Leaders Award (OPAL) in Education; the Distinguished Teaching Award and the Berkeley Citation from U.C. Berkeley; the Western Electric Fund Award of the American Society for Engineering Education; the Medal for Exceptional Scientific Achievement from NASA; and the 2001 Kevin Nash Gold Medal of the International Society for Soil Mechanics and Geotechnical Engineering. He was the 1991 Rankine Lecturer of the British Geotechnical Society. He was elected to membership in the National Academy of Engineering (NAE) in 1976 and the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) in 1998.