Saturday, July 16, 2016

Making a Difference: Tony Mason

As we learn about community, we have an opportunity to meet some of our community leaders who are making a difference. Last week we were honored to meet Tony Mason, President and CEO of the Indianapolis Urban League.

"(Growing up) having people tell me about their experiences, helped shape my path and my direction. For me, it’s only appropriate to pass that on - pay it forward.”     
- Anthony "Tony" Mason
Tony Mason, Indianapolis Urban League with our summer campers
Anthony R. Mason was born on March 25, 1966 in Lima, Ohio (the Buckeye state). His parents, John and Dorothy Mason, both had an incredible influence on their children's lives. They instilled in them to be “nice about how you treat people.”  Anthony’s mother instilled in him a very strong sense of self and work ethic. “In her eyes you work hard and you try your best. You try to be 3 times better than the person you’re competing against or working with.  She really drove that home to myself, and my brothers.”

Anthony is the youngest of 6 children; he has one sister, and four brothers. Growing up Anthony had two favorite dogs, Blackie and Queen. Like most children, the chore Anthony liked least was taking out the garbage. However, he loved playing the game of ‘Life’ with his mother. Anthony, who is nicknamed Tony, loves barbecue chicken, greens, his wife’s sweet potatoes, and his mother’s lemon pie. His favorite colors are black and red.

HIGH SCHOOL and the INFLUENCE OF MENTORS                                                     
When Anthony was seven years old, his family moved to Evanston, IL. In school, history was Anthony’s favorite subject, and geometry was his least favorite. Anthony considered himself fortunate to have had a wonderful experience as a high school athlete at Evanston Township High School. He played basketball, and during his senior year, he was the team captain, with a winning record of 32-1. Through sports, he learned about building character, how to work as part of a team, perseverance and hard work.

Anthony was greatly influenced by Coach Herb Williams, and a few teachers around him. His math teacher, Ms. Kelly, was his favorite teacher because “she genuinely cared about her students and took extra time to ensure we understood the math lessons.” His brother, Renny “inspired me as I watched him earn his degrees from Yale and Case Western Reserves, and eventually open his own legal practice. He set an example for me. He showed me that I could achieve anything I put my mind to. Having people tell me about their experiences, helped shape my path and my direction. For me, it’s only appropriate to pass that on - pay it forward.”     
Anthony attended Miami of Ohio University in 1984 and earned his Bachelor’s Degree in Public Administration with an emphasis in public policy analysis. Anthony then earned his Master’s Degree in Sports Organization. His mother had hoped that he would become a doctor, but science was not his thing. “I always had this bug about sports.” 

For the majority of his career, Mr. Mason has been in roles where sports was used or leveraged to impact the community and young people. As a recent graduate of Wichita State University, his first job was working in campus recreation. This program was organized by The National Youth Sports Programs and sponsored by the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA). This job gave him the opportunity to bring young people, who were at risk or under-served, onto the campus. Many of the students that participated in the program lived in the neighborhood adjacent to the university but had never been on campus. These students were the first in their families to become prospective college students. They never thought about the possibility of going to college until they were exposed to the campus through that program. Mr. Mason had the opportunity to get to know several individuals on the NCAA staff that made the transition when the NCAA moved from Kansas to Indianapolis. 

“I like to tell young people and young professionals all the time, that relationships are really, really huge and important because you just never know how things will work out.”

Mr. Mason began to work for the Indiana Black Expo as the Director of Family and Youth Programs. He counts the late Rev. Charles Williams (President of Indiana Black Expo) as a major influence and one of the role models and mentors that influenced him greatly. Rev. Williams taught him a lot about helping people, and serving the community.  Rev. Williams always said you had to “lead with your heart and not always with your head.” They worked with twelve chapters of Indiana Black Expo throughout the state.

After the NCAA relocated to Indianapolis, Mr. Mason left the Indiana Black Expo and began to work in the NCAA Education Services Division. He began coordinating youth outreach initiatives which included sports clinics.

After a year, Mr. Mason accepted the position of Executive Director of the Circle City Classic. From 2000 to 2008, he and his staff grew the scholarship program from $25,000 to over $100,000.
On January 21, 2009 Tony Mason was offered the position of Senior Vice President for the 2012 Indianapolis Super Bowl Committee. He remembers the exact date because it was the day after President Obama’s inauguration. As the Senior Vice President he was responsible for providing administrative oversight and staff support for the Near Eastside Legacy Project and various community outreach efforts ranging from neighborhood redevelopment to educational programs to environmental initiatives to cultural arts projects to human impact initiatives.  Over 200,000 Indiana residents, young and old participated in various Indianapolis Super Bowl Host Committee and NFL initiatives.

In 2014 Mr. Mason became the third president and CEO of the Indianapolis Urban League, succeeding Joseph Slash and the late Sam Jones. The Indianapolis Urban League uses the disciplines of social work, economics, business and community development to help secure equal opportunities for disadvantaged citizens. 

In 1993 Anthony married his college sweetheart, Joy. They are the proud parents of two sons, Miles and John Michael. 

Tony’s favorite book is “Malcolm X”, because of “his focus on becoming self-sufficient and helping others.” 

His favorite scripture is, “To whom much is given, much is expected.” This scripture is his favorite because “I believe God blesses us with strengths and gifts that He intends for us to use to help others.” 

His advice to young people? “Take advantage of all of the opportunities you have before you. Work hard each and everyday and put your best effort forward. Never underestimate the value and importance of relationships. Every experience prepares you for something that’s coming down the road, no matter how big or how small.”
SAVE THE DATE - 9/20/16: "Making a Difference: Celebrating Our Community" Awards Dinner

No comments:

Post a Comment