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George D. Mason ’84 and his wife, the Hon. Jeanne E. LaFazia, with
their animal rescue pets Jesse (front) and Buster Brown.

​Bequest from Mason ’84, wife reflects belief in PC, Business Studies Program

George D. Mason ’84 worked as a Teamster truck driver and warehouse employee during high school and summers, saving enough money to pay his way through Providence College.

The persistence and dedication it took to become the first in his family to attend college yielded lifelong dividends.

“It took a blue-collar kid who was rough around the edges and kind of honed him,” said the history and Russian language graduate of his alma mater. “I really blossomed here ….”

A former natural gas and oil executive who is currently in his 15th year as a Rhode Island state employee, Mason recently committed a lifetime gift to the College as the latest gesture of his gratitude for his PC educational experience. In honor of his 30th-year reunion, Mason and his wife, the Hon. Jeanne E. LaFazia, chief judge of the Rhode Island District Court, contributed a significant bequest to enhance the Business Studies Program (BSP).

The bequest will support a full-time, term-limited professor’s position in the program, primarily for the capstone course, Business Policy and Decision Making, which Mason has taught as a special lecturer since 1997.

His investment with the College doesn’t stop with his generosity or teaching, however. The Naugatuck, Conn., native, who was a member of his class’ Reunion Committee, frequently attends and supports alumni and development events, and participates in career networking activities, including as a Winter Shadowing Program volunteer.

He said Providence College, gave him the tools and direction to be successful and made him realize that what matters in life “is bigger than owning a Porsche or having a big house.”

The College, and its Dominican Community, brought Catholicism to “a human level” that profoundly influenced him, said Mason, adding that Dominicans were visible throughout campus. Mentors like the late history professor Rev. Cornelius P. Forster, O.P., whom Mason said “taught me how to write;” the late Brother Kevin O’Connell, O.P., associate director of financial aid; and art and philosophy professor Rev. Adrian G. Dabash, O.P., were instructive, approachable, and genuinely concerned for the well-being and growth of students, he said. 

An ethical grounding

Of all the values the College instilled in him, Mason said ethics resonated most. That ethical foundation — established by his parents and “rounded out by PC” — guided him in his early career in positions with Merrill Lynch and as a business development and acquisitions utilities executive with Coastal Refining and Marketing of Houston, Texas, and Providence Energy, where he was a vice president prior to his second career in public service.

In 2000, he accepted an offer from then-R.I. Gov. Lincoln C. Almond to serve as a senior advisor on energy policy, starting his transition to state-level public service, where for the last four years he has served as a senior policy analyst for the state Senate after serving as chief-of-staff to former Senate Majority Leader Daniel P. Connors ’98.

“PC gives you belief in self,” he said. “It instills and reinforces many values. PC taught us the ethics in things.”

Mason speaks just as fervently about one of the other motivating factors for the bequest: his belief in the Business Studies Program and the impact it has — and will have — on students. Led by longtime director Ann Galligan Kelley, C.P.A. ’78, professor of accountancy, the BSP allows students to take an alternate path to careers in business. Students supplement a major in a non-business discipline with seven business or business-related courses that lead to a certificate in business studies.

To Mason, the BSP is an ideal educational product for a liberal arts college like PC, merging the liberal arts and business. He called it “a blessing” to be affiliated with the program as a teacher and to have interacted with hundreds of students during the past 17 years.

He noted the students, in turn, not only learn foundational business skills and strategies, but more importantly direct real-world applications as they are exposed to real-world business professionals like him and external presenters — who oftentimes have contacts and connections to share. He is thrilled when he runs into former students who are hiring students at the College’s career fairs.

“It’s important to me that the legacy of the program continue. I want to ensure that future generations of students experience business studies taught by senior executives with substantial real-world experience and industry contacts that they can bring into the classroom,” he said.

Think today about tomorrow

Mason, who is a staunch land preservationist and who has chaired the Agricultural Conservancy Trust in his hometown of Little Compton, R.I., for 15 years, emphasized it is never too soon to think about estate planning. That point hit him hard two years ago when close friend Richard S. Marchisio Jr. ’84, who was the best man at his wedding, was stricken suddenly and died. 

“I wasn’t ready…. However, it forced me at 49 to think about my own mortality and legacy,” he said.

He started the conversation with his wife who, like him, attended a Catholic high school, Elmhurst Academy, and had strong social responsibility values instilled by her mother and father, the latter who was a highly-respected Rhode Island attorney who co-owned a law firm that specializes in civil litigation. They then met with a financial planner to discuss their priorities and estate. Mason said the process made him reflect on his life and legacy.

“I thought, ‘What’s going to happen when I’m gone? What can we do to ensure that what we leave behind is put to the best use,’” he said, pointing out that with proper planning, people can minimize the amount of taxes, legal fees, and court costs to be paid to the government and private entities when they die. “Wouldn’t it be nicer to know that things will be done the way we would have wanted to see them done after we are gone?”

For Mason and his wife, PC was one of several special causes that they believe needed to be incorporated into their estate plans. He encourages alumni to seriously consider the impact the College had on their lives when thinking about estate beneficiaries.

“It’s OK to think about other causes, but don’t forget PC. When we graduated, we each took a special piece of it with us when we left here, and now is a good time to plan on how we all can give a part of it back for future generations of Friars,” he said.

—Charles C. Joyce

To learn more about bequest giving to Providence College, contact Elizabeth Oliveira Manchester, J.D. ’02, director of planned giving, at 401.865.2451 or at eoliveir@providence.edu.

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