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Miami’s Debbie Mason inspires for three decades

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By Emily O'Connor, Senior Staff Writer

Miami serves as a home for many - typically, for only a few shorts years of their lives. But for Debbie Mason, assistant to President David Hodge, Miami has been her home for more than three decades. As a student, faculty member, parent and friend, Debbie has changed the lives of thousands.

One year after graduating high school in 1980, Mason began working at the university in the physical education office. Since then, she has moved to the development office and now assists Hodge in Roudebush Hall.

Along with making sure Hodge is in the right place at the right time, making travel arrangements and serving on the President's Executive Cabinet, Mason has been dedicated to completing her bachelor's degree from Miami.

Hodge speaks of Mason in the highest regard.

"She is truly an amazing person," said Hodge. "She embodies those qualities of personal caring that make Miami so special."

She began taking courses 30 years ago, but took a large break in the middle to raise her family. Mason and her husband have five kids. Four of their kids have graduated from Miami, and one is currently a nursing student at the university.

"Taking classes with little kids ended up being impossible," said Mason. "I give the biggest kudos to single mothers."

Once her children were older and more independent, she began the path toward her bachelor's degree for the second time.

"Ten years ago I really took it seriously and started to finish," she said.

While reflecting on the past 30 years of classes, Mason has the most gratitude for Miami's January term. Over the years she used the terms to knock out almost an entire semester.

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After years of hard work and dedication to Miami, Mason graduated with her bachelor's in May 2015. Her integrated studies degree allows her to combine two different majors: business and technical writing and small business management with a minor in communications.

Ted Pickerill, who has worked with Mason since 2011, said Mason is a true joy to work with and he has the highest respect for her. He said what she has done over the year with her career, family and school speaks to her ineradicable character and dedication.

"She is truly inspiring," said Pickerill. "To flawlessly manage the schedule and activities of a university president all while taking classes and raising a family, it is absolutely amazing."

University counsel Robin Parker, who has worked with Mason for 20 years, said her sense of humor, honesty and kindness make everyone in the office love her.

The students at Miami are Mason's favorite thing about Miami.

"They were so accepting and generous," she said.

When Mason walked into the classroom, she was always the oldest student in the room. She said she was worried about unwanted on classroom teams or being paired with younger students due to her age. To her disbelief, she never experienced negative reactions from students in class.

"I never felt unwanted," said Mason. "Students here are great and so open-minded."

She described how nice it was being around other people who wanted to learn and she appreciated that so many students are studious and care about grades.

"This campus is always vibrant, interesting and there is always something going on here," she said.

One of Mason's involvements outside of the university is flipping houses and watching TV shows about similar projects.

"I have done two so far," said Mason. "I hope to do another when I retire."

Hodge said, Mason also plays on the Roudebush broom ball team, "Team Rowdybush."

"She has been our star broom ball goalie over the past 10 years," Hodge said.

"She treats everyone with kindness and respect," said Parker. "I love working with Debbie."

After spending so many years at Miami, Mason said she couldn't imagine herself anywhere else. Mason plans to stay at Miami until she retires. After that, she plans to continue flipping houses with her husband and spending time with her nine grandchildren.

"I could never imagine working in a cubicle, it'd be horrible," she said.