As Thomas Mason IV '91 joins an effort to enhance diversity on the St. Ambrose campus, he considers it a case of making a "great place" better.
"Yes, St. Ambrose is making a conscious effort to increase diversity, but St. Ambrose always fostered diversity and tolerance," he said. "That was true when I was a student and it still is today. That's what makes it such a great place."
Diversity is more than a question of color, Mason said. Gender, ethnicity and culture also are key to understanding and promoting diversity and St. Ambrose continues to work toward enhancing its representation on all of those fronts.
"We have a female president," Mason said. "Diversity is understanding that everyone must be accepted and St. Ambrose is doing that. St. Ambrose welcomes everybody and everybody is treated with dignity and respect."
A successful sales representative for Rilco Inc., in Rock Island, Ill., Mason has been an active member of the SAU Alumni Association Board of Directors for the past decade.
Last year, Mason was asked to focus his energy and commitment to helping a campaign to permanently endow the Freeman Pollard Minority Scholarship. He readily accepted and was a key influence in the Alumni Association's decision to support that effort by agreeing to commit $1,000 annually to the fund through 2020.
Founded in 1988 to honor SAU's first African-American professor, the scholarship fund has provided nearly $150,000 in tuition assistance to 500 minority students through the years, including 98 first-year or transfer students this fall.
Jim Collins '69 played a pivotal role in establishing the Diversity Work Group that is leading efforts to permanently endow the Pollard scholarship fund. He said Mason is a tireless ally in that effort.
"I'm amazed at the time and energy Thomas puts into his work at SAU in addition to his leadership role in his workplace and the raising of his family," said Collins. "It's truly a labor of love."
Currently, the Freeman Pollard Minority Scholarship is an unfunded endowment, meaning it receives support via annual budget considerations, in addition to outside fundraising efforts and donations.
But perhaps not for long. Collins and Mason are leading the effort to solicit $1 million from alumni to permanently endow the Freeman Pollard Scholarship fund by 2020.
For Mason, the commitment to diversity at St. Ambrose affirms his faith in his alma mater and its mission.
"St. Ambrose was the best thing that ever happened to me," Mason said. "It has spiritually guided me and changed my outlook on life. Yes, I received an excellent education while I was there, but it was also a great nurturing experience. As a result, I want to give back. I feel I have to do good. I not only have a duty to do that, but an obligation."