In Memoriam Dr. Charles T. Mason

We would like to here honor Dr. Charles ("Chuck") T. Mason, Jr., who guided the growth of ARIZ for nearly four decades, during tremendous transitions at the University and in the field of plant systematics. The legacy of ARIZ is strong thanks in large part to the dedication of previous Curators!

Many thanks to his son, C. Thomas Mason III, for the following summary of Chuck's much-appreciated contributions to the ongoing history of ARIZ.

Charles T. Mason, Jr., Professor Emeritus of Plant Sciences and Ecology & Evolutionary Biology and longtime curator of the U of A Herbarium, died in March 2012 just weeks before his 94th birthday. He taught at the University of Arizona from 1953 to 1992, and continued to work adjoining the Herbarium 4-5 days a week until he was injured in a car-pedestrian accident in 2007 at the age of 89. In "retirement", he was a co-editor of the compendious Vascular Plants of Arizona project, and authored descriptions of 10 plant families. He earned a B.S. from University of Chicago (1940), and M.A. (1942) and Ph.D. (1949) from University of California, Berkeley.

During his years in the UA Herbarium, Dr. Mason expanded the collection from 105,000 specimens to nearly 300,000. Notable accessions included the Howard Gentry collection of agaves and Homer Shantz' photographic plates. The Herbarium - now in Herring Hall - was housed for decades in the building named for Dr. Shantz. Dedicated to public service, Chuck was always willing to help people identify plants, solve Poison Control Center crises, or find the best displays of spring wildflowers.

Many of Dr. Mason's former students have become outstanding plant scientists in their own right, applying their talents at UA, Tumamoc Hill, NAU, UNLV, and elsewhere. UA's strong Arid Lands program attracted foreign students from the Middle East, North Africa, and other arid regions, and many studied their botany from Dr. Mason. On returning home, those alumni became notable professors, research scientists, or government policymakers.

Chuck Mason journeyed avidly throughout the U.S., Mexico, and Canada, collecting plants and celebrating nature. With his wife Patricia, he wrote A Handbook of Mexican Roadside Flora (UA Press, 1987), a traveler's guide to Mexican plants. When Pat induced him to travel beyond North America, one of his greatest pleasures was visiting his former students in their countries around the world.

If you would like to donate to the UA Herbarium in Chuck's honor, please follow this link. To indicate your donation is in memory of Charles Mason, please select "In Memory of" in the Tribute Information type field at the bottom of the Donation page, and then enter his name in the appropriate name fields.

Donations will help us to continue Dr. Mason's legacy, teaching students and striving to fully document the flora of Arizona in all its diversity.