LUBBOCK, Texas (KCBD) - This is a big week for Texas Tech. It’s the first week for Dr. Tedd Mitchell to turn all of his attention to his duties as Chancellor of the University System after stepping down as President of the Texas Tech Health Sciences Center.
So why did he juggle both jobs for a year?
And why give up the President’s job NOW to be a full time chancellor?
Everything changed when a dream came true to help large animals like Bugatti.
Hang on. You’ll understand that in a moment.
Dr. Mitchell looks back over the last year to explain, “At the time, we had a really tough legislative session. There was no money. We had significant cutting just to make the budget.”
Most people remember that the idea of a vet school in Amarillo was stirring a lot of controversy statewide. Many big time donors believed that it was appropriate that the only vet school in the state was at Texas A&M University.
Suddenly, Chancellor Robert Duncan announced his retirement. Soon after, the TTU Board of Regents asked Dr. Mitchell to step in as interim chancellor, even though he was already serving the university as President of the TTU Health Sciences Center.
Dr. Mitchell says, “It made no sense to me with the turmoil at the system level to add turmoil to HSC by leaving.” Not to mention, the Medical School was planning its 50th anniversary.
But then, everything changed one day in Amarillo. Dr. Mitchell describes that day, “Pretty incredible. I think that groundbreaking with Chancellor Hance and Duncan with us was such a perfect picture of the timeline.” Side-by-side with a lot of other distinguished supporters, those three Lubbock leaders marked the spot in Amarillo where the Texas Tech University School of Veterinary Medicine will someday soon accept students.
Ironically, Dr. Mitchell’s wife, Dr. Janet Tornelli, would love to be one of those students. She says, "I always wanted to go to vet school instead of medical school."
That explains a lot about the Mitchells… and why they did NOT want to live in the Texas Tech Chancellor’s house, an enormous home close to the campus. Mitchell says, “I don’t think they’d appreciate it if we hauled three horses to the back yard of the chancellor’s house.”
In far southwest Lubbock, the Mitchells have their horses on 10 acres. There are very few trees, a far cry from their ranch in East Texas. That’s where the trees are so big that they have a tree house that was featured on the show Treehouse Masters.
But, both agree that Lubbock is no temporary stop. Janet says, "It doesn’t matter there aren’t any trees. Where my horse are, I’m happy. And we’ve made this place our home.” After all, she explains that for the first time ever, home means their horses are in the back yard with their dogs. For all the years they lived in Dallas, she had to drive 90 minutes every day to get to the barn where she kept her horses.
Now, the horse man cave, as Dr. Mitchell calls it, is just a few steps away in their back yard.
That’s where Janet introduced me to her thoroughbred, Bugatti, saying proudly, “He’s my Lubbock horse. I bought him here in Lubbock!” The other two are quarter horses, but just as spoiled. Dr. Mitchell says, “See? We’re set up here.” Almost on cue, Doc, another horse, starts waving his head up and down like he is agreeing too.
This is their paradise where Janet rides every day. She has even provided this arena for horse clinics so others can ride in front of this 65-foot mirror and see what they’re doing right or wrong. But there’s no mirror in another barn for Dr. Mitchell. That’s where he works out every day with a series of exercises. Janet says she knew she wanted to live in this house even before she went inside to see the house. The barns and arena were more important to her and exactly what she needed.
Now, in 10 years, her house has not changed much. But the Texas Tech Health Sciences Center, under Dr. Mitchell’s leadership, has changed enormously with additional buildings and a beautiful new seal at the main entrance. But, as hectic as his schedule is at Texas Tech, life is much more simple at home with all the horses, two dogs and a cat named “Cat”. The Chancellor says with a chuckle, “This is definitely our forever home. The Board of Regents will decide if this is my forever job.”