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Alumni Award Recipient Ivan Joseph Mason

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Ivan Joseph Mason '51
2013 Ripples Society Award Recipient

By the time he got to Bridgewater College as a student in 1947, Ivan Joseph Mason was already well acquainted with the school. His father, Russell, ran the college's farm from 1941-45 (where today's McKinney Center for Science and Mathematics is located), while young Ivan worked on the farm and delivered milk to the college.

"My pay was that I got to eat and be a part of my family's work," said Mr. Mason.

As a student, he had two notable interests – mathematics, which he pursued as a major, and Peggy Jane Glick, whom he pursued as a suitor. He and Peggy, who was from Washington, D.C., were in the same class at Bridgewater and married in 1950 between their junior and senior years.

The couple graduated in 1951 when the Korean War was in full swing, and Mr. Mason – who wasn't interested in being drafted – joined the U.S. Air Force. During basic training in Texas, he applied for tech/electronics training, got it and was assigned to technical school at Keesler Air Force Base in Biloxi, Miss. Six months later he returned to Texas for officer's training and received his commission as a second lieutenant in June 1952. He then returned to Keesler for 42 weeks of technical training.

In 1953 Mr. Mason taught USAF officers electronics design at Keesler. It was a job he loved, but in order to continue it he would have to reenlist for an indefinite period. Unwilling to do that, he exited the Air Force and two months later reported as an electronics engineer at MelPar Inc., a division of Westinghouse Air Brakes, in Alexandria, Va. Ironically, he noted, he worked on Air Force contracts.

In 1961 Mr. Mason transferred to the Martin Co., in Baltimore, Md., and in 1963 went to NASA headquarters in Washington, D.C., as an electronics engineer and aerospace technologist on the Apollo space program. He was there on July 20, 1969, when Neil Armstrong became the first man to walk on the moon, and for his efforts on the project received the Achievement Award for his dedicated service.

In 1970 Mr. Mason transferred to the Goddard Space Flight Center in Maryland, where he remained for nine years. From 1976-84 he was the operations director for the International Ultraviolet Explorer (IUE) project and from 1984-89 was technical officer managing the contract to develop the Science Operations Center for the Hubble Space Telescope. Mr. Mason has received Special Achievement Awards for his service on the IUE and Hubble projects.

As Mr. Mason prepared to retire in 1989, NASA gave him two surprise gifts: scale models of the IUE and Hubble spacecraft. Another surprise gift arrived by mail in 1999 – a sealed piece of multilayer insulation that flew on the Hubble Space Telescope from 1990-99. On the reverse is the acknowledgment, "For Dedication and Service."

"I marvel at my career," said Mr. Mason. "When I graduated from Bridgewater College, there were no computers, no semi-conductors, no moon landing. To go from teaching in Biloxi to the space telescope was a wonderful career."

The Masons serve as co-treasurers for the North River Library and the Bridgewater Home Auxiliary. Mr. Mason was also a church board member and board chair at the University Park Church of the Brethren in Hyattsville, Md. Additionally, he enjoyed serving on the Boy Scout Troop Committee when his two sons were in scouting.

With the presentation of the Ripples Medal, the Ripples Society recognizes Ivan Joseph Mason for his distinguished career and his life of service and commitment to his country, his community and his alma mater.