Retirement Just Leaves 70-year-old More Time To Help Youth

Longtime Educator Mason Volunteering His Golden Years

October 27, 1991|By Mike Nortrup | Mike Nortrup,Contributing writer

MOUNT AIRY — You'd never know Andrew Mason is retired.

The 70-year-old South Carroll resident left the state Department of Education last year after a 40-year career as a teacher, principal and administrator. Yet he remains on the go.

A man whose life story is far from complete, this amiable gentleman continues to add lively chapters.

He immerses himself in a range of volunteer activities that must seem at times to surpass the demands of a full-time job.

"I'm staying very busy and that's good," Mason said.

He recommends all retirees have a plan when they quit.

"Don't just retire; retire to something," he said. "If all you're doing all day is looking at that box (television), you're in trouble."

And he practices what he preaches.

Mason is a lector at St. Michael's Catholic Church in Howard County and a member of the Mount Airy Kiwanis Club and Mount Airy American Legion Post No. 121, where he is post chaplain.

He also is chairman of the committees that coordinate the legion's state scholarship and oratorical contests for high school students.

Also heavily involved in Scouting, Mason, a past Carroll County District Scout chairman, is Eagle Scout coordinatorfor Troop 460 in Mount Airy.

There's a common thread running through many of these activities -- youth.

That's not surprising, given his four-decade career in a field where youngsters are the first order of business.

"I always enjoyed working with kids and seeing them learn. Some thought they couldn't, but once they did they had the incentive to learn more and more," said Mason, explaining why he likes working with youngsters.

Born and raised in Richmond, Va., Masondecided on a career in education while he was in the Army from 1942-1946.

Mason was an instructor and he "just got the bug for it," hesaid.

He made another important decision in May 1943, when he andwife, Grace, were married.

"It was a pretty uncertain time. You didn't know where you'd be," Mason said.

"I guess it worked out. We've been together for 48 years."

The Masons have three children: Brian and Michael, who live out of state, and Gregg, who lives next door to his parents on East Main Street.

After the war, Mason attended college on the GI Bill, receiving a bachelor's degree in language studies from the University of Richmond and then a master's in modernlanguages from the University of Wisconsin.

Afterward, he was offered teaching jobs in several places but took Carroll County's offer because Grace, also from Virginia, didn't want to go far from there.

He started at Westminster High in 1950, teaching French, Latin andSpanish.

He moved to the principal's job at Taneytown Junior/Senior High in 1954.

"I wanted to be in a leadership position, where Icould start programs and watch them come to fruition," Mason said.

After four years there and another as principal at Mount Airy Elementary School, he again moved, this time to the Maryland Department ofEducation.

In 1959 he became special services supervisor, coordinating curriculum and teacher training at such youth institutions as the former Montrose girls' school. He subsequently held other high administrative positions.

All of those posts involved teaching the teachers -- coordinating in-service training seminars for county teachers and administrators, developing curriculum and applying for grants.

While those jobs carried responsibility for coordinating education activities over large areas of Maryland, Mason said the state can only advise local school boards.

"I was never their boss," he said.

Even in those hectic working years, he volunteered his spare time-- youth baseball coaching, Scouting, the American Legion, Kiwanis, to name a few.

He also headed the Mount Airy Planning Commission from 1966-1986, overseeing preparation of the town's comprehensive plan and the revision of its zoning ordinance.

Mason also joined the Maryland Association of Secondary High School Principals where, in the 1970s, he was chairman of a committee developing recommendations for managing disruptive youths in schools.

He takes pride in saying that some of those guidelines are still being used in parts of the country.

He also relishes the fact that some of those he taught so many years ago have gone on to big things.

Among his students are former state Superintendent of Education Joseph Schilling.

Mason defends education against its detractors.

He disputes studies that rank U.S. students behind those of other countries, based on the results of evaluative testing.

"We let everybody take those tests," Mason said, adding that this leads to lower average U.S. scores. "(Othercountries) only give them to their elite."

He added that the bestU.S. students are as good as anybody's.

Although he has left education behind, Mason says there will be plenty to take its place.

"I intend to stay active," he said. "I don't intend to stay back."

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