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Arthur Mason, Pioneer UTSI Professor, Dies; Held Various Positions During Lengthy Career

Arthur A. Mason of Manchester, World War II naval aviator and one of the first faculty members chosen to open The University of Tennessee Space Institute in 1964, died Aug. 22 after a season of illness.

Visitation and services for the professor emeritus of physics are set for Aug. 24 at First Baptist Church, Manchester, where the Masons have been active members for more than 40 years. Visitation will be from 1 to 3 p.m. with services starting at 3 with Mason’s pastor, Brenton Cox, presiding. Manchester Funeral Home is in charge of arrangements.

Mason retired from UTSI May 31, 1995, after a long career that included serving in various positions including Director of Academic Programs and Assistant and Associate Dean of the Space Institute.

“All of us at UTSI are deeply saddened to hear of the loss of our dear colleague and friend, Art Mason,” said Donald C. Daniel, UT associate vice president and chief operating officer of the Institute.

“Without pioneers like Art, there would be no University of Tennessee Space Institute, nor would we have achieved the prominence that we enjoy on a worldwide basis in the aerospace community. Art was a treasure, and we will always be grateful for his and Helen’s many contributions and support of UTSI.”

In May 1964, while a research assistant in the Physics Department at UT-Knoxville, Mason accepted an offer to join UTSI in September as assistant professor of physics. He had married Helen Burnette, executive secretary of the Physics Department earlier that year.

Mason was the third faculty member specifically chosen for UTSI, which began first classes Sept. 24, 1964, in spaces provided by AEDC until the Institute was built.

One of the first three UTSI students to receive doctorates in Physics – J.D. Trolinger – was one of Mason’s students. In July 1967, Mason was promoted to associate professor, and he was granted tenure a year later.

Soon after the Institute opened, the first director, the late B.H. Goethert, persuaded Helen Mason to serve as the Institute’s first librarian, and she assembled the first books in their Manchester home. She held that position until retiring in 1987.

In May 1970 Mason was faculty advisor of a newly formed chapter of Sigma Pi Sigma, a Physics honor society, and he later established a chapter of the Society of Physics Students and a Sigma Pi science honor society. He was promoted to full professor in July 1974.

Two years later, in August 1976, he was named as assistant dean of UTSI and in January 1980 was appointed as Director of Academic Programs. For the next decade, Mason served either as assistant or associate dean and returned to the classroom in 1986. An experimental molecular spectroscopist, Professor Mason’s research ranged throughout the electromagnetic spectrum from the far infrared to the vacuum ultraviolet. Early in his career, Mason established an active cooperative research effort with engineers and scientists at AEDC. His effort played a significant role in the development of several important techniques in the area of spectroscopic diagnostics of high-temperature non-equilibrium gas flows.

At the conclusion of Reimar Luest’s Quick Goethert Lecture at UTSI on Oct. 31, 1989, Mason said that scientists and engineers were shaping “the way we live and the way our children live.” He concluded that, “It is in the work that we leave something behind for future generations.”

He and his wife taught Sunday school and Mason was a long-time deacon at First Baptist. He also was active in the Manchester Rotary Club.