MOBILE, Alabama — On a night to celebrate 2013’s numerous economic highlights, members of the Mobile Area Chamber of Commerce also honored two prominent philanthropists: Abe and Arlene Mitchell, who received the Alfred Delchamps Award in recognition of their multiple gifts to the University of South Alabama and its medical centers.
The award was announced during the Chamber of Commerce’s 177th annual meeting, held Feb. 4 in the Mobile Civic Center Theater.
The Mitchells’ contributions to USA over the past year included Abe Mitchell’s $50 million matching gift, announced as part of the university’s 50th anniversary and tribute to President Emeritus Gordon Moulton last May.
The donation went toward a scholarship program and to the Mitchell College of Business. It was the largest gift to a public university in the state, said Michael Saxon, the chamber’s outgoing chairman.
The bequest brought the family’s total giving to the University of South Alabama to more than $93 million, Saxon told the audience.
Saxon also recognized the 2013 chamber award winners: the City of Mobile, winner of the Minority Business Advocate award; Millie Sue Hawk, owner of Welcome Friends, ambassador of the year; Airbus Americas Engineering, corporate community service award; Safe Archives, small business of the year; and BAE Systems, manufacturer of the year.
Saxon introduced the chamber’s video report, “See Mobile Differently.” (See the video below.)
Bill Sisson, president and CEO of the chamber, gave an update on Mobile’s economic progress in 2013: 302 jobs created, with an average annual salary of $58,000, and $516.3 million in capital investment.
Then it was time for the changing of the guard, with Saxon formally stepping down as chairman after introducing the chamber’s 2014 leader, Michael Chambers, president and chief executive officer of Swift Biotechnology.
Chambers announced a new focus on small business development for the coming year: entrepreneurial education seminars and a mentoring program to pair industry experts with entrepreneurs.
“We want to make Mobile even greater,” he told the audience. “We want you to help us build Mobile; we want you to believe in Mobile.”
updated February 5, 2014 at 8:43 AM