Why McMaster donors give: Ross Mason’s story

A photo of Ross Mason wearing a suit and tie.

McMaster grad and longtime supporter Ross Mason and his late wife established a bursary to support student athletes.

“Honour and truth. Be forever progressive in your play. Score the first, score the last. When all is done, make sure you have carried the day.”

These are the inspirational life lessons Ross Mason, BA ’59, learned from his former coaches and McMaster University sports legends, Ivor Wynne, BA ’40 and Les Prince, BA ’78, LL.D ’90.

Wanting to pay it forward and inspire future generations of athletes, Mason and his wife, Karen, established The Karen M. Mason and Ross H. Mason Bursary.

But the lessons learned from Wynne and Prince extended beyond the hockey rink and football field. Their teachings helped Mason persevere through Karen’s death and later establish The Karen M. Mason Academic Grant in Nursing.

“I hold Ivor and Les to the highest regard,” said Mason. “They were a big influence and their wisdom had a profound impact on my life.”

A life dedicated to service and sport

Mason, 88, grew up in the Leaside neighbourhood of Toronto. His peaceful family life changed forever when Canada entered the Second World War and his father volunteered in the war effort.

“My father stormed Juno Beach on D-Day,” Mason said with pride. “He was the type of person who knew it was his duty and needed to get the job done.”

With his father fighting oversees, Mason’s mother felt he needed to be surrounded by male role models. In 1943, he was accepted to Upper Canada College (UCC), a prestigious all-boys preparatory school. Inheriting his father’s strong sense of duty, Mason joined UCC’s battalion and rose through the ranks to become an officer. UCC was also where Mason’s passion for sports was ignited.

“I played all sports like football and cricket. But hockey was my game,” said Mason, a die-hard Toronto Maple Leafs fan.

A black and white photo of Ross Mason and three other troops wearing military uniforms. They are holding a trophy.
Mason (far left) with his fellow Upper Canada College battalion troops in 1954.

While in the Maritimes for a hockey tournament, Mason met his first wife at a party. The couple married in the 1960s and had two sons, Kevin and David, but the marriage was short-lived.

“It was a case of the hockey player marrying the cheerleader,” Mason said, laughing. “We just had different interests and we divorced amicably in 1968.”

Mason later met his second wife, Karen, who was a lieutenant in the Canadian Women’s Army Corps.

“We had a wonderful 45 years together,” said Mason.

Giving his best shot at McMaster 

Mason admittedly became a homebody after graduating from UCC. His parents encouraged him to enrol at McMaster in 1956 so he could experience the world around him.

Although he wasn’t a high-performing student, Mason excelled as an athlete and served as captain of the McMaster Marlins hockey team during the 1958 season. He credits much of his athletic success to sports director Prince and athletic director Wynn.

“Les Prince and Ivor Wynn were like second fathers and were so much more than coaches,” said Mason.

Paying it forward 

A black and white photo of Ross Mason in action on the ice, wearing a jersey with a 'C' on it, indicating he is the team captain.
Mason was captain of the McMaster Marlins hockey team in 1958 

After graduating with a general arts degree in 1959, Mason worked for Cargill, a company that distributes grain and agricultural products.

Mason and his wife, Karen, soon caught the entrepreneurial bug and launched their own construction business: Roadway Gravel in Uxbridge, Ontario.

“We worked hard for many years, but we got to a point where we were exhausted and sold the business in 1988.”

Enjoying their retirement, the couple traveled the world in the 1990s, visiting countries on every continent. It was around this time they began giving back with philanthropic gifts.

The Masons supported the creation of Ron Joyce Stadium in 2008. The following year, the couple established The Karen M. Mason and Ross H. Mason Bursary, which has been awarded to more than 100 students who demonstrate outstanding athletic participation and financial need.

“The university gave me so much in life. I wanted to pay it back and give those same opportunities to others.”

The Masons’ love of travel was suddenly put on hold when Karen’s health began to deteriorate in 2016. She was later diagnosed with lung cancer and died in December of that year.

“It was the saddest day of my life,” said Mason. “The lessons I learned from Ivor and Les taught me how to be brave under adverse circumstances. It helped me get through this tragic time.”

Wanting to honour his wife and her palliative-care nurse, Mason established The Karen M. Mason Academic Grant in Nursing in 2017. It is awarded to students in the School of Nursing who attain a high fall-winter average and demonstrate financial need.

Mason is also leaving a gift in his will to support the university in perpetuity.

“I believe McMaster is one of the world’s greatest universities. I want to be part of helping the institution grow into the future.”

Why McMaster donors give: At McMaster University, every single gift, no matter the size, has the potential to make a difference in the lives of our students, the quality of our research and our ability to give back to our community and influence the future. We asked some of our donors and their families what motivates them to give. These are their stories.

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