When Helen Chiles Mason ’50 graduated from Mary Washington, she immediately set out on a cross-country road trip, landing a teaching job when she arrived in California.
Helen, who earned a degree in dramatic arts, spent her years passing along a love of learning to her elementary school students and her four children. So, when she passed away on Thanksgiving Day in 2021, Helen found her way back to her alma mater in the form of a generous unrestricted gift to the University of Mary Washington, which put the funds toward a collaboration space for aspiring educators.
Nearly a year later, the University dedicated the Mason Team Room – named for Helen and her late husband, Judge Leslie Mason Jr. – on Nov. 21, 2022, in the newly renovated Seacobeck Hall, now home to the College of Education (COE) and the Office of Disability Resources. The couple’s four children and a grandson traveled across the commonwealth, the country, and the globe to attend the ceremony and see Helen’s wishes carried out.
“Our education students are … eager to have spaces like this where they can collaborate, engage in discussions, and share ideas,” COE Dean Pete Kelly said. Prior to the ceremony, he gave the family a private tour of Seacobeck Hall, including the Mason Team Room, already being utilized by students.
Having access to spaces like this where education students can work as teams, Dean Kelly said, means that “when they graduate, they are well-equipped to meet the needs of future generations of students.”
Assistant Vice President of Gift Planning Jan Clarke read the Board of Visitors’ resolution and explained at the dedication how naming gifts can help teach the UMW community about the value of philanthropy. “Many of the beautiful places we enjoy on campus are because of private support from generous donors like Helen, who want to help the University move forward.”
Jan also thanked the Mason family for traveling such long distances – some came from California and even Vietnam – to visit Mary Washington and celebrate their mother and grandmother’s life. “Especially her time on this campus that shaped her during her formative years,” he said.
Ben Mason, Helen’s son, expressed gratitude on behalf of his family to the University for finding such a fitting way to pay tribute to his late parents.
“Education was so important to both of them,” he said. “Mom liked teamwork and for people to gather together, so we appreciated that you did this for her, for us, and for Mary Washington.”
For information on naming gifts at the University of Mary Washington, please contact the Office of University Advancement at firstname.lastname@example.org or 540-654-1024.
– Article written by Assistant Director of Advancement Communications Jill Laiacona