Retirement Tribute for Mason Lowance
By Ron Welburn | Friday, June 16, 2017
By Ron Welburn
Friday, June 16, 2017
It is a great honor to toast my American studies friend, Mason Lowance. When I asked Mason if there was anything in particular he’d like me to say about his distinguished long career as a UMass educator, he told me about an article he published in 2010 in the Princeton University alumni magazine: “Challenges and Changes in Higher Education, 1960–2010,” his title encompassing the year he graduated from that Ivy institution to the then present of his class’s fiftieth anniversary.
Mason did not reflect on that span of years to promote himself. In fact, he describes some infrastructure advantages at the University of Massachusetts that figure prominently over Princeton’s. While he recounts demographic changes in terms of gender and people of color at his alma mater, he is by no means unaware of the troubles besetting American society.
Let me say a few words about Mason’s productivity during his near fifty years (!!) at UMass. We acknowledge Mason as one of our department’s elder statesmen; but be careful when you look under his name in our DuBois Library’s online catalog listings. Mason Lowance, a publication in 1678! An original copy of The Works of Abraham Cowley is here at the Renaissance Center, as are others from 1589 and 1695, donated by Mason and his wife Susan over twenty years ago. These gifts to the Renaissance Center lend testament to the generosity of the Lowances toward the preservation of knowledge found in antiquarian books. Mason has otherwise edited or written several other works on Jonathan Edwards, the Puritans and the New England Transcendentalists, and Harriett Beecher Stowe, and two compilations of which he is most proud, Against Slavery: An Abolitionist Reader (2000) and A House Divided: The Antebellum Slavery Debates in America, 1776-1865 (2003), which he uses as foundational bellwethers for his courses in American literature up to the Civil War. We thank him for being so committed to matters of equity in both American rhetorical history and in university governance pertaining to fairness for students and faculty.
Some of us may not know that Mason is also an experienced clarinetist. Shortly after I arrived he gave me a list of tunes he fastidiously compiled identifying the lead notes transposed according to instrumental pitch. Academics like Mason who bring the practice of other arts to the rigors of literary study help instill a level of critical thinking that sharpens students’ appreciations.
Mason, since you remained with us through the fall semester, this is not exactly an old-fashion “farewell.” You have by now finished packing your office and have given Bartlett Hall your final blessing; but during this time when we are trying to adjust to the new building, we’re sure to see you, Mason, at select department and university sessions and programs. Our warmest wishes to you and Susan, as you write the next page!