It all started with a bench. Mollie Mitchell, a KU alumna with degrees in journalism and education, was born and raised in Hutchinson, Kan. Her father, William “Bill” Mitchell, served as Speaker of the Kansas House of Representatives from 1960-1962 and was chairman of the Kansas Corporation Commission. Shortly after his death in 2006, two of his friends discovered a bench in Shimer Park in Topeka, commemorating Bill’s life. According to Mollie, these friends joked that their lives “would never warrant a bench.” The story became Mitchell family folklore.
Mollie now lives in Colorado with her husband, John Wilson. The couple had known each other when they were kids. When they reconnected more than 20 years ago, their love of KU became part of their story. As a KU alumna, Mollie’s Jayhawk spirit runs deep. Though John did not attend KU, his family roots are crimson and blue and he has always carried a love for the university. He fondly recalls Saturday trips to Lawrence from his childhood home in Hastings, Neb., to watch KU football games.
Mollie and John formed a relationship with the School of Education and Human Services not long after Bill’s bench was discovered. At the time, the school was offering donors the opportunity to purchase commemorative bricks or benches. When John asked Mollie if she’d like a brick, she recalled her family folklore and said, “No, I’d like a bench.”
That conversation led to a long partnership with the school. Inspired by Mollie’s extensive career as an elementary school teacher and their passion for public education, the couple sought ways to encourage and reward those in the profession. One evening, while attending a KU men’s basketball game, Mollie saw a group of education students and noted that, once they enter the profession, they may not be able to afford tickets. A member of Mollie’s group suggested they do something about that, and Tickets for Teachers was born.
The annual program provides KU men’s basketball tickets to 15-20 clinical supervisors who oversee student teachers about to enter the profession. Student teachers nominate their supervisor, also known as their cooperating teacher. “Clinical supervisors are an incredibly important part of the student teaching process, but are often not recognized in any way,” Mollie said.
It was an easy choice to select that group as the recipients of the Tickets for Teachers program. KU graduate Allie Rosenberg nominated Chrissie Kohl of Nieman Elementary School in the Shawnee Mission School District as a Spring 2023 Tickets for Teachers recipient. Rosenberg wanted to honor Kohl because she went “above and beyond all she was required to do as a clinical supervisor” and daily modeled how to be a “patient, engaging and caring educator.” Kimberley Hunter, a teacher at Jardine Elementary School in Topeka, was also a program recipient. Hunter and her husband are lifelong KU fans, and she hopes the program can continue for many years. “We rarely get to attend because it is difficult to get tickets, so we jumped at the chance to cheer on the Jayhawks,” she said.
John and Mollie have funded the Tickets for Teachers program for nearly 15 years, and while it is still a valuable part of their giving to KU, they hope others will begin to contribute to the program. They are also investing in scholarships for future educators who wish to enter the profession. “We are passionate supporters of public education because we went to school with the whole town, and the whole town was behind us,” John said. The couple is now showing their support for the educators who bring communities together.
Mollie Mitchell and John Wilson are dynamic examples of what dedication in action looks like, and their commitment to each other and to KU is inspirational. If you’d like to see where it all started, venture over to the east side of Pearson Hall, and have a seat on Mollie’s bench.
You Can Help
To support Tickets for Teachers, contact Laura Meyer at 785-832-7372 or email@example.com.