Mason Inaugurations through the Years

This past Friday, April 26 2013 marked the inauguration of Mason’s sixth president, Dr. Ángel  Cabrera. The event was a ninety-minute celebration of both old and new, both tradition and innovation.  Beginning with a staid traditional  procession accompanied by an orchestra and choir, the ceremony ended with a rousing recessional by the Mason pep band, the Green Machine and their leader Dr. Michael “Doc Nix” Nickens.  The program featured speeches by Virginia Secretary of Education, Laura Fornash;  James T. “Til” Hazel accompanied by other Mason Founding Fathers; and AOL founder Steve Case.  Dr. Cabrera, in full academic regalia, was invested by Rector of the Board of Visitors, Daniel Clemente. Vintage video footage and photographs of the university’s past were juxtaposed with modern videos promoting the Mason IDEA and a spoken word performance by Mason student Sha’air Hawkins.  Dr Cabrera emerged later in a jacket and an open collared shirt with no tie to give his inaugural speech before leading the inaugural party from the stage to the Green Machine’s rendition of Battle Without Honor or Humanity.

George Mason University President Ángel Cabrera speaks at the Installation Ceremony during his Inauguration at Patriot Center, April 26, 2013. Photo by Alexis Glenn, Creative Services, George Mason University.


We thought it would be appropriate to look back on previous CEOs at Mason and see how they assumed office.

Portrait of John Norville Gibson Finley in academic regalia. George Mason University photograph collection Box 76, Folder 1. Copyright held by George Mason University. Restricted to personal, non-commercial use only. For permission to publish, contact Special Collections & Archives, George Mason University Libraries,

George Mason’s first leader was John Norville Gibson Finley, for whom Finley Hall is named. At the time of his elevation to the Directorship of the University of Virginia’s branch college in Northern Virginia (July of 1957), he was currently serving as Director of another institution of higher learning, the Northern Virginia University Center, an extension center for the University of Virginia operating at Washington-Lee High School in Arlington.  On July 20, 1957, University of Virginia President Colgate W. Darden, Jr.  sent Finley a letter instructing him to take charge of the newly created two-year branch at Bailey’s Crossroads.  The college was not called George Mason in 1957, rather it was called University College of the University of Virginia.  It would later be named George Mason College of the University of Virginia in December 1959.  We have no record of any actual “inauguration” for Director Finley, but it can be assumed that there were more pressing agenda items for the University to attend to as classes were set to begin on September 23.

Since the college was only a two-year branch of the university, Finley was not referred to as “President.”  His title was “Director,” one that would be used at the college until it became a four-year institution in 1966.  Though he was not given the fanfare of an inauguration Finley was, however, honored upon his retirement in December 1963 with a dinner. In 1972 the former North Building was renamed for him.

Robert Reid, who was Mason’s first Director at Fairfax, was hailed as Director as part of the new Fairfax Campus’ Dedication on November 12, 1964. The event was attended by U.S. Secretary of the Interior, Stuart Udall; Virginia Governor,  Albertis S. Harrison, Jr.;  and several hundred public figures, students, and local citizens.  During the Dedication, the University of Virginia’s Chancellor of Community Colleges, Joseph L. Vaughan installed Dr. Reid as Director in a brief ceremony.  Reid’s speech was about three minutes long and contained less than 300 words.

Photograph by Oliver Atkins of director, Robert H. Reid addressing the George Mason College Dedication, November 12, 1964. Oliver F. Atkins Photograph Collection Box 3, Folder 10. Copyright held by George Mason University. Restricted to personal, non-commercial use only. For permission to publish, contact Special Collections & Archives, George Mason University Libraries,

George Mason University President Lorin A. Thompson in academic regalia. Photo was taken in his office in Finley Building (formerly North Building), Room 208 on February 6, 1973. George Mason University photograph collection Box 3, Folder 4. Copyright held by George Mason University. Restricted to personal, non-commercial use only. For permission to publish, contact Special Collections & Archives, George Mason University Libraries,

On March 1, 1966 George Mason College became a four-year degree-granting college, though still part of the University of Virginia. Its chief executive would now be called “Chancellor,” and on July 1, 1966 Dr. Lorin A. Thompson was asked by the university to serve as Chancellor of George Mason College for one year until a replacement for the departing Robert Reid could be found. Thompson was a well-respected member of the faculty in Charlottesville and Director of the university’s Bureau of Population and Economic Research there.  Already sixty-four years old, he agreed to the one-year term.  But finding him to be an effective leader for George Mason, the university continued, successfully, to ask him to remain for another year every year until 1972. Under Dr. Thompson’s tenure the college moved rapidly forward, increasing in student body by five-fold, acquiring over four-hundred-twenty additional acres of land, and becoming an independent institution on April 7, 1972. At the first-ever meeting of the Board of Visitors of the now-independent George Mason University on May 31, 1972 the Board unanimously appointed him Mason’s first President, and once again Thompson accepted on the condition that it would only be for one year.  Dr. Thompson’s seven-year “temporary” assignment was not marked by an inaugural ceremony, though the then recently-completed Arts and Sciences Building was renamed for him in 1973.

Upon the retirement of Dr. Lorin Thompson, Dr. Vergil H. Dykstra took office as Mason’s second president.  In a ten-minute ceremony on July 2, 1973 the former vice president at the State University of New York at Binghamton met with both Thompson and Vice President for Academic Affairs, Dr. Robert C. Krug in his new office in Finley Hall. There, Thompson and Krug presented Dykstra with the keys to the President’s office and a set of quill pens and inkwell that were described as replicas of the ones George Mason himself used. Eighteen Mason administrators were on hand to welcome Dr. Dykstra and say goodbye to Dr. Thompson.  A university photographer captured the very brief ceremony.

Photograph of new president of George Mason University, Vergil H. Dykstra (right), shaking hands with Vice President for Academic Affairs, Robert C. Krug (left) while former president, Lorin A Thompson (center), looks on. Dykstra is holding the keys to the office in his left hand. The keys were just presented to him by Thomson during the July 2, 1973 ceremony in the President's Office in Finley Hall. George Mason University photograph collection Box 3, Folder 35. Copyright held by George Mason University. Restricted to personal, non-commercial use only. For permission to publish, contact Special Collections & Archives, George Mason University Libraries,

End of Part One.
Please click here to read Part Two.

Mason Inaugurations Through the Years, Part Two

University President, Dr. Robert C. Krug, at his desk at George Mason University, Fairfax Campus. Photograph is undated, but is most probably ca. 1977 or 1978. George Mason University photograph collection Box 2, Folder 15. Copyright held by George Mason University. Restricted to personal, non-commercial use only. For permission to publish, contact Special Collections & Archives, George Mason University Libraries,

This post is a continuation of the the original post entitled Mason Inaugurations Through the Years.

Dr. Robert Krug became George Mason University’s third president although he never interviewed for it. The unexpected resignation of President Vergil Dykstra in April 1977 came as a surprise to many, but to none more so than Vice President of Academic Affairs Dr. Robert C. Krug.  Krug was appointed Acting President immediately following Dr. Dykstra’s departure having learned of his new position after returning from a short vacation.  He accepted the position with the stipulation that he did not wish to remain President; he would only fill in until a new president was chosen.  His official duties began without fanfare on April 1, 1977.  Dr. Krug’s most important goals during his short term as president were to effectively define and manage the budget and to oversee the emergence of the School of Law in Arlington, which he accomplished successfully. He also oversaw the completion of the first on-campus housing, and began the work of establishing a computer system for the university. Though his title was Acting President, Dr. Krug was later was named President Emeritus by the Board of Visitors at the end of his term.

The ceremony hailing Dr. George W. Johnson as Mason’s fouth president on Saturday April 7, 1979 was Mason’s first-ever presidential inauguration.  April 7 was also University Day, the day Mason celebrates its becoming an independent university beginning in 1972.  The first inauguration of  a George Mason president was also designed to be a celebration of a successful year at Mason.  Just a few months earlier the George Mason University School of Law had been created, and Mason had been approved by the state legislature to grant doctoral degrees.

The ceremony was held in the gymnasium of the Physical Education Building (today known as the Recreation and Athletic Complex or RAC). It began with a procession of Mason faculty, representatives from over sixty other colleges and universities, members of the Board of Visitors, Mason faculty, and students. The Mason Symphonic Winds Orchestra and Mason Chorus performed the music. Speakers included Dr. J. Wade Gilley, Virginia’s Secretary of Education; State Senator, Omer L. Hirst, who noted that Mason was “on the threshold of greatness”; alumni, faculty, and student representatives. Johnson’s inaugural speech entitled “Promise” stressed his desire to educate students to become “citizens” not merely professionals. Dr. Johnson was invested by Rector of Board of Visitors, Harriet “Happy” Bradley. The festivities ended with an inaugural ball held in the lower level of the Student Union Building (now known as Student Union Building I). A live band was on hand to play music from the 1940s through the 1970s.

Dr. George W. Johnson at his inauguration, April 7, 1979, Physical Education Building, Fairfax Campus.George Mason University photograph collection Box 13, Folder 10. Copyright held by George Mason University. Restricted to personal, non-commercial use only. For permission to publish, contact Special Collections & Archives, George Mason University Libraries,

Dr Alan G. Merten was inaugurated Mason’s fifth  president on April 4, 1997 in Patriot Center.  The event was a star-studded affair, as attendees included Virginia Governor, George Allen, U.S. Senator Charles Robb, and former Mason Presidents Drs. Vergil Dykstra, Robert Krug, and George Johnson.

George Mason University Presidents from left to right: Drs. Alan G. Merten, George W. Johnson, Robert C. Krug, and Vergil H. Dykstra at Inauguration for Alan Merten, April 4, 1997. George Mason University photograph collection Box 80, Folder 3. Copyright held by George Mason University. Restricted to personal, non-commercial use only. For permission to publish, contact Special Collections & Archives, George Mason University Libraries,

After his investiture by Rector Marvin Murray, Dr. Merten gave his inaugural speech, during which he urged all members of the university community to be advocates of the expression of dissenting views and to “hold George Mason (the man) in their hearts” for his commitment to freedom and human rights. A reception was held afterwards on the plaza near Mason Hall.

Dr. Alan G. Merten and wife Sally at his Inauguration, April 4, 1997. George Mason University photograph collection. Copyright held by George Mason University. Restricted to personal, non-commercial use only. For permission to publish, contact Special Collections & Archives, George Mason University Libraries,



University Libraries Acquires Mason Family Account Book

Re-post from GMU News.

By Mark Schwartz, communication and marketing officer, University Libraries

Mason family manuscript account book, 1792-1820, C0214. Special Collections & Archives, George Mason University Libraries.

The George Mason University Libraries has acquired an important late 18th-century manuscript with handwritten entries by the George Mason family. Previously, the university owned only three single-page original documents directly related to its namesake, George Mason IV.

“The Mason family account book is not only an important historical resource, but has immense symbolic significance for Mason,” notes John Zenelis, university librarian. “We are thrilled that this important Virginiana manuscript has been repatriated, particularly to this part of the Commonwealth where the extended Mason family lived.”

The University Libraries purchased the 220-year-old Mason family account book last summer through an antiquarian dealer in Boston. The acquisition was facilitated through the generosity of the Washington and Northern Virginia Company of The Jamestowne Society, an organization dedicated to preserving the historical record of early Virginia.

The book documents the business, family and personal accounts of Stevens Thomson Mason (1760-1803) and his son, Armistead Thompson Mason (1787-1819), respectively the nephew and grandnephew of George Mason IV.

The two men who wrote most of the entries for the family account book led noteworthy lives. Stevens Thomas Mason fought in the American Revolution as a colonel in the Continental Army and served as an aide to George Washington during the battle of Yorktown. Armistead Thompson Mason served as a general in the War of 1812 and as a United States senator for one year. He was killed in a duel with his cousin, John M. McCarty, over a contentious election.

The family account book includes detailed records about the Mason family plantation Raspberry Plain Farm, located near Leesburg in Loudoun County.

“The account book reveals the considerable work of managing a plantation in the early 19th century,” says Jordan Patty, processing librarian/archivist in Special Collections and Archives (SC&A). “You begin to picture how busy the days must have been, contrary to the image of the Southern gentleman sitting on the porch sipping a mint julep. At the same time, the account book also includes many mentions of the slaves on the plantation, and to see those names among the other business of the day is particularly powerful in light of what we know today about the brutality of slavery.”

Stevens Thomson Mason wrote the accounts from 1792 until his death in 1803, and his son, Armistead, made entries from 1810 until his death in 1819. William Temple Thomson Mason also contributed a number of entries. Other entries in the hand of William Temple, the half-brother of Stevens Thomson and the uncle of Armistead Thompson, can be found in the pages. Other Mason family members adding entries to the accounts were John Thomson Mason (1765-1824), John Thomson Mason (1787-1850), and Stevens Thomson Mason, Jr. (1789-1815).

“The Mason account book is in its original rough or reversed calf binding with headbands, blind stamping on the covers, and raised cords on the spine,” says Yvonne Carignan, head of SC&A. “Although the binding was worn and the front cover detached at the hinge, we had the book conserved instead of rebound to preserve the original artifact. We believe it is instructive for students and other scholars to have an opportunity to view the book as its creators saw it.”

SC&A is also home to the Virginia Historical Documents Collection, which has three other documents related to the Mason family. The 1853, single-page document is a deed-of-gift from Maynadier Mason, grandson of George Mason IV, which transferred ownership of his “negro slave woman named Lucy” to his late wife’s maternal aunt, Mary Ann Clark. The two other Mason family documents are letters written and signed by James Murray Mason, the grandson of George Mason. The 1860 document is a recommendation for a political appointment addressed to President James Buchanan. The other letter concerns James Murray Mason’s involvement in the Trent Affair in 1861.

The Virginia Historical Document Collection and the account book can be examined at the Fenwick Library on the Fairfax Campus. The Mason Family Manuscript Account Book can also be seen online.