Lee “Fuzzy” Mitchell is being honored by the Woodland Community College Foundation on Founders Day as
one of the original cohort of 12 professors at the college and because of his indelible impact on the campus,
with students, and the community at large.
When asked to describe her late husband Lee “Fuzzy” Mitchell, Shirley Carlson uses adjectives like
“compassionate, generous, energetic, empathetic, appreciative, unique, and inspirational” as if to tell
us that the dynamism of her late husband cannot be captured in mere words. Lee was the kind of man that when
you met him, you never forgot him, especially with his Santa Claus like white beard and his larger than life personality.
Before he ever graced Woodland Community College with his teaching prowess, Lee was stocking shelves as part of the
night crew in a grocery store. He knew he wanted to change his life around and attended Sacramento City College where
he decided to take his first Geography course. That class and its professor had a profound impact on him. Not only did
he fall in love with Geography, Lee knew that he wanted to inspire other students, as he had been inspired.
Over a span of 35 years, Lee taught anthropology, ecology, geography, geology and oceanography. If you didn’t have a
class with Lee, then you probably saw him at the Yolo County Fair where he was a fixture on behalf of the college.
Lee took great joy in teaching, often providing his own funds for books for students who had limited financial resources.
He loved his time at the California Street campus because his office was right next to the student lounge, and he could
spend lots of time with students.
During the beginning of every year, his wife Shirley recalls, “Jim would learn every single students name, every year.
The first week of classes Jim used to make his students fill out notecards with a little personal information about
themselves. At home he would take his seat roster and would play word association to remember names. He would even
repeat the information in the shower!” As part of extra credit, Lee would quiz the students about the names of the
support staff on campus, because as Lee saw it, every person on campus was important.
Students loved Lee. As his wife put it, “if your goal was to travel across the country, Lee would do everything
in his power to get you across the country.” He would always tell them, “Do whatever it takes and do it to the end.
Lee’s daughter, Roxanne Mitchell, now an administrator in the San Juan Unified School District, said, “He was an
inspiring teacher. His inspiration came directly from his students. Perhaps because Lee himself overcame so many
challenges in fulfilling his own education and career goals, he was drawn to others who needed to overcome obstacles….
He held high standards for all of his students, but he would accommodate to the special needs of students as much as he
could. He thoroughly enjoyed teaching and learned as much from his students as they did from him.”
If part of what drew Lee to become a teacher was his desire to inspire his students, the other part was having plenty
of vacation time to pursue his other life’s passion, biking. Jim loved biking so much that he actually rode to district
meetings in Marysville by bike from Woodland. He loved biking so much that he rode 3000 miles cross-country four times and
set records in team events into his 70s and on 27 other occasions drove his beloved red bike-van across the country
blasting music and offering support to bike riders all over the country. In a tribute to Lee, his teammates, now
octogenarians, made the cross country trek. To put it simply, he was and still is beloved in the biking community.
Whenever Lee signed off on a letter or email, he wrote “Hugs. You betcha.” That was the kind of person Lee was.
Always there and always reassuring. And that is why so many people love Lee and that why he is being honored on
Founders Day. At Woodland Community College, he created the perfect environment for generations of students to learn