Friends in High Places

August 1, 1998

Mary Ann Travis

Tucked away in an out-of-the-way office when he first came to work at Tulane, Ron Mason says he didn't see many colleagues who looked like him. That was in 1982, a time when Tulane employed few African-American professionals. He decided, "If I was going to stay, I'd better find friends." Mason, who stepped down as Tulane's senior vice president and general counsel on July 1 to become director of the National Center for the Urban Community at Tulane, did succeed in making friends. And on June 26 he was honored by several of them at a reception in the Diboll Conference Center. Carolyn Barber-Pierre, associate dean for minority affairs, who was one of Mason's first colleagues on campus, recalled the beginnings in 1984 of the Minority Advisory Group, now called the Coalition for Cultural Enhancement. "We began with social activities," said Barber-Pierre. "We formed a network to provide resources for each other. Ron had a vision for the group." Vice president for personnel services Evola Bates, police lieutenant Cornelius LeBlanc, associate vice president for facilities Al Perry, physical plant supervisor Larry Francois, social work emerita professor Dorothy Randolph, English professor Felipe Smith, Amistad archivist Brenda Square, and basketball coach Perry Clark each praised Mason for his contributions to the diversity of Tulane and for his guidance and energy. Some even ribbed him about his basketball playing. "At all levels of the university, from the president and the board to community outreach and the faculty," said Smith, "Ron Mason has been engaged and involved." Without Mason, according to Smith, African and African Diaspora studies, as a department, would not exist. Clark, too, said, "I would not be here without Ron Mason." Clark also said, "No challenge is too great for Ron--even New Orleans public housing." Mason, in his new position, will continue the work he began at the request of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development in 1996, overseeing the Housing Authority of New Orleans. Mason said his goal during his tenure at Tulane has been to make it a more "colorful" place. "Not just in the color of skin, but in the hearts of people," he said. "I hope I have made it a better place."

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