Every seat was filled as the community gathered to honor the University of Tennessee Space Institute’s first librarian, Mrs. Helen Mason, and the late Dr. Arthur Mason, one of UTSI’s founding faculty members, during UTSI’s Library Dedication Ceremony held on Nov. 28. “Art was, and Helen is, a very unique and gifted person, and we are blessed that they called us friends,” said Barbara Simmons. Mrs. Simmons and her husband Bill were longtime friends of the Masons and two of several speakers at the event who told their fondest memories of the couple.
Dr. William Bugg, a former professor of physics at the UT Knoxville, spoke of Helen and Arthur before they were the Masons, and before they moved to Manchester from Knoxville to be part of this new project that would become the Space Institute we know today. Dr. Bugg said that when he started at UTK as a graduate student in the physics department, he was told that to get started on the right foot, he needed to go see “Miss B,” which is what the students called Helen Burnette, who was the department’s executive secretary. Dr. Bugg recollected that Arthur and Helen’s romance first began to blossom on a bus during a physics department field trip. Dr. Bugg said that he didn’t think the physics department at UT ever fully recovered from losing “Miss B.”
Family friend Bob Van Hook reminisced about how Arthur had always narrated the Christmas and Easter plays at their church, and said that he had a beautiful speaking voice. Once, Van Hook said, he noticed that Arthur was standing during a hymn at church, but that no one else was, as the song director hadn’t asked them to stand for the song. Afterward he asked Arthur about it and he said, “I just don’t think it’s right to be sitting down while singing ‘Stand Up, Stand Up for Jesus.’”
UTSI’s Historian Emeritus Weldon Payne also said a few words, including several of Mrs. Mason’s. Payne, who has written a history of UTSI and recently published a novella, quoted a selection that Mrs. Mason had written about crossing the lobby from the academic portion of the main building to the administrative side, before the lobby was complete, and in the dead of winter. “The connecting lobby was still open (no windows), permitting the free flow of wind and weather, rain and snow. One donned coats and scarves for the trip and made a mad dash across, praying not to slip on the terrazzo…” When he finished, Mr. Payne said, “I wish I could write like that.”
After all the reminiscing, UTSI Chief Operating Officer Dr. Don Daniel asked Mrs. Mason to come forward and unveiled two new beautiful works of art, sketches of herself and her husband, done by UTSI Professor Emeritus Dr. Remi Engels. The originals were then hung in a special location in the library, on either side of a new plaque that bears the official name “The Helen & Arthur Mason Library.” Mrs. Mason was also presented with smaller framed versions of the sketches for her home.
The lovely ceremony also included live music on string instruments by Harry and Sarah Hill and Haley Crawford, and was followed by a reception in the newly named library. In a surprise donation to the newly dedicated library, Gay and Winfried Goethert, son of UTSI founder B.H. Goethert, gave a copy of Von Braun: Dreamer of Space, Engineer of War by Michael J. Neufeld, which has been called the definitive biography of Wernher von Braun
UTSI’S LIBRARY DEDICATED TO MASONS—University of Tennessee Space Institute’s Chief Operating Officer Dr. Don Daniel is shown at left with UTSI’s first librarian, Mrs. Helen Mason, and UTSI’s current librarian, Mrs. Emily Moore. UTSI’s library was officially dedicated in honor of Mrs. Mason and her husband, the late Dr. Arthur Mason, one of UTSI’s founding faculty members, on Nov. 28. A new plaque that bears the library’s new official name, “The Helen & Arthur Mason Library,” can be seen just behind them, flanked with two new beautiful works of art, sketches of the Masons, done by UTSI Professor Emeritus Dr. Remi Engels. –UTSI Photo by Shanna Relford
— UTSI Photo by Laura Horton