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David Thomas Mason ’58

“Earlier this spring, David T. Mason died from far too long suffering with Parkinson’s disease,” wrote Jonathan Hough ’59. “Throughout his trial, he retained to the end his love for music. It was a basic element of his life. At Western Washington University, he continued the Reed tradition of  Prof. Herb Gladstone [music 1946–80] by bringing Gilbert and Sullivan productions to the stage. His efforts went to both the popular operettas and the nearly unknown. Through the years, he directed the entire Gilbert and Sullivan repertoire. An accomplishment extraordinary and beautiful.”

David’s parents, Herbert Mason and Lucille Roush Mason, were renowned botanical scientists and faculty members at UC Berkeley and Davis. With Reed biology professors G.F. Gwilliam [1957–96] and Helen A. Stafford [1954–87], David investigated the environment and nature of the sediments of Reed Lake for a senior thesis, and he earned a BA from the college in biology. In the summer following, he did research in biology on a grant from the Carnegie Institute and enrolled at UC Davis, where he earned an MA in biology and PhD in limnology.

While in the doctoral program at Davis, he also directed The Mikado. David joined the faculty in biology at Western Washington University in 1971 and taught ecology at the university’s Fairhaven College. He also taught a variety of interdisciplinary and experimental learning courses, including humanities, natural habitats and streams, recycling, and gay and lesbian studies, and he integrated his teaching and research with theatre arts and creative writing. He composed music, directed, and created stage designs for Fairhaven theatrical productions. David wrote to Reed, “I’ve, fortunately, found a way to live out my liberal education in my profession, where my values and politics are all related to the role model image projection which constitutes an effective part of my job.”

In 1973, he was awarded a Fulbright fellowship to pursue environmental research in Uruguay. With research primarily in limnology and ecology, he studied environments such as Arctic Alaska, Mono Lake, New Zealand, Australia, and Japan. In 1989, he was appointed dean of Fairhaven College and retired in 1998, an individual beloved by generations of students, colleagues, and friends. The Center for Pacific Northwest Studies at Western Washington University maintains the David T. Mason Papers.

Appeared in Reed magazine: December 2015

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