category: Faculty Emeriti - In Memory Of

Abbie Miller Mitchell

Professor Emerita of Music

Abbie Miller Mitchell

Abbie Miller Mitchell (1907-2002) was born in Lamar, Colo., to Abbie Ellis Dawson and Marvin Miller. Her mother was a musician; her father worked in a business school. The family moved to Owensboro, Ky., where Mitchell spent her formative years.

Mitchell graduated from Owensboro High School in 1924. She furthered her education at the Cincinnati Conservatory of Music, where she received both the Bachelor of Music and Master of Music degrees. Her thesis topic was “Famous Operatic Roles and Musicians Who Have Made Them Famous.” She later received an additional Bachelor of Arts degree from Kentucky Wesleyan College.

Lessons in piano began at the age of 10, and she quickly developed a love, appreciation and proficiency for musical understanding and performance. She always gave credit to her private teacher, who encouraged her to expand her musical abilities.

After graduating from the Conservatory, she taught piano in a private studio at Sutherland Elementary School in Utica, Ky., and at Davis County High School in Owensboro, Ky. Before coming to Gardner-Webb, Mitchell had a private piano studio for nearly a decade.

In 1937, she came to Boiling Springs Junior College (Gardner-Webb’s predecessor). Mitchell served as head of the music department and taught piano for the College. She commented that there was strong support for the music department, and resources were found to update musical equipment for the program’s faculty and students. She considered the music department to be thriving during her time thanks to the administration’s commitment to the programs and an excellent music faculty. Her tenure at the College covered a period of over two and a half decades; she retired in 1963.

Before leaving Boiling Springs, she was married on June 16, 1963, to Clyde Mitchell of Vida, Texas. They lived in Texas one year, before moving to Owensboro, Ky. Abbie taught piano students at the Kentucky Wesleyan College for 10 years. She also served as organist of St. Andrews Presbyterian Church in Owensboro.

In addition to being named professor emerita of music in 1987, she was honored in 1964 by Gardner-Webb and received the Citizen Citation for her outstanding achievement and service in the field of higher education.

Organizations to which Mitchell belonged included Phi Kappa Lambda, an honorary society for musicians; Delta Kappa Gamma, an honorary society of women teachers; and the Daughters of the American Revolution. She was the oldest performing member of the Saturday Musicale at Owensboro. She also was an active member of the Cecilia Music Club of Shelby, N.C., while on the faculty at Gardner-Webb.

Former students, faculty, and community members fondly remember her concerts. Mitchell often presented individual piano concerts; she and Mrs. Gidney, a Gardner-Webb voice teacher, presented legendary concerts together that were always well-received by audience members. She also developed musical program opportunities for her students for programs in schools and organizations in the area.

Mitchell kept a vivacious and optimistic spirit in her life. She once said, “Keep a livable attitude. Be grateful for what you have, don’t be jealous of what others have, look for the best in others and tell them so.”

In asking her about her experience at Gardner-Webb, she made these comments: “I would do it again. I enjoyed the wonderful faculty, students and the others with whom I worked and became acquainted. My years at the (University) were some of the best years of my life.”

She enjoyed reminiscing about faculty, former students, and friends and held a genuine interest in them. She loved people; she enjoyed reading and was active in her hometown of Owensboro. She enjoyed the visits to Boiling Springs after retirement and sharing financially with the University. On one of her visits, she and Mrs. Gidney reunited for a concert. She lived in Owensboro until her death in July of 2002.

Sources: Telephone interviews with Abbie Miller Mitchell; material from Gardner-Webb The Magazine – Cothenia Jolley

Updated: October 2022 – Noel T. Manning II

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