Hesston College Business class field trip to Harper (Kan.) Industries

Students Weston Troyer (sophomore, South Bend, Ind.), Krystal Hathaway (sophomore, Goshen, Ind.), Elliot Wilder (freshman, Hesston, Kan.), Brittany Albrecht (sophomore, Sebawaing, Mich.), and Chad Newcomer (sophomore, Mt. Joy, Pa.) and Bill Mason listen as Harper Industries President Tim Penner leads a tour.

That which you focus on, flourishes. People don’t expect perfection. Have your employees spend 10 percent of their time each year learning something new. Look for the margins of difference. Don’t just work harder, work smarter. Build trust with your customers. Find your niche. Students are like people.

If you’ve ever been a student of Bill Mason these aren’t new concepts. They’re strikingly simple, to the point. Effective. They’re a lot like Mason.

When Mason arrived on campus in 1970 to work with public relations as part of a two-year break from a lucrative position at an ad agency, he had no idea how the calling to Kansas would shape the next 40 years of his life, or the lives of the hundreds of others he’s nurtured since getting his start here.

Beginning next school year, Bill Mason Business Scholarship will be available to four second-year business students each year. Made possible by an anonymous donor, the scholarship honors Mason and recognizes students with passion and aptitude for business.

Not one for personal accolades, Mason simply says, “I feel honored.”

“Bill is a wonderful mentor for many students at Hesston College and in the Business Department,” says Vickie Andres, department chair. “He makes himself available to students, and I often find him discussing either his business or personal insights and experiences with them.”

Hesston College Business faculty member Bill Mason

Students in Bill Mason’s Business Seminar toured several businesses this spring including Harper Industries in Harper, Kan. The tour included lunch and presentations by several Harper administrators and staff.

When you ask those Mason has mentored, you get a clearer picture of who he is and the legacy he’s left with his students. Take John Sharp ’73, for instance. The history professor was never enrolled in one of Mason’s courses, rather he learned from him as a part of the Student Services staff that Mason supervised in the early 1970s when the college was going through significant changes.

“‘Students are a lot like people’ was a memorable phrase,” Sharp recalls. “That meant we were on staff to value, respect and serve them; and yes, treat them like people!”

It’s something he carries with him to the classroom today.

“Since students are a lot like people, each is unique, and I view each as a person of value, deserving of my respect, and from whom I can learn as well as teach.”

Pam (Brenneman) ’83 Weaver was a student worker for Mason when he was director of Student Services and was struck by the trust he instilled in her and the ways he challenged others to “think outside the box.”

“The biggest influence for me was the emphasis on customer service and the way to treat others both from a moral and ethical point of view as a way to distinguish myself and my business,” Weaver says.

In 1983, Mason left his work at Hesston to start a consulting company. During that time, he did some consulting for the college, but it was 13 years before he came back to teach part time as a “retirement” activity.

Lavonne (Roth) ’72 Mullet was a first-year student in fall 1970, which was also Mason’s first semester. Mullet was not a business major, however the two connected and she became a marketing student several years later as part of her journey that took her to a top-level management position at Compaq Computers. She recalls being invited to teach Marketing at Hesston in the spring of 2000.

“I told them I would only do it if I could team teach with Bill,” Mullet says. “We did three or four courses together. One student wrote on their course feedback ‘Bill is wise.’ I think that’s an accurate representation of who he is and how his students perceive him.”

In particular, Mullet values the way Mason combines the importance of relationships with critical thinking.

“It’s not often that I’ve met people who are able to bring those two things together,” Mullet says. “He has great insights and a boat load of common sense, and he is willing to mentor students long after they leave his class.”

A member of the Hesston College Board of Overseers, Annette (Steider) ’83 Brown is appreciates the ways Mason continues to encourage her and stay connected.

“The affirmation and confirmation of my skills that Bill gave me when I was a student is something I still go back to when I’m doing tasks I’m uncomfortable with,” Brown says.

Assistant director of Admissions and men’s basketball coach Dustin Galyon ’04 still has lunch with Mason on a regular basis.

“Bill continues to have a major influence on my approach to business and work,” Galyon says. “Bill has really challenged me to understand my natural strengths and my weaknesses and how to manage both, how to be productive and not busy.”

“I always tell my students that if you’re in management, you’re in the nurture business,” Mason says. “I’ve discovered it’s the same if you’re a teacher.”

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