Dean Clif Mason: A Student of the Natural World
“We shall not cease from exploration And the end of all our exploring Will be to arrive where we started And know the place for the first time.” – From T.S. Eliot’s “Little Gidding.”
“Those words of Eliot probably best describe me,” said Clif Mason, Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences at Bellevue University. Dean Mason, who began his career with Bellevue University in 1981, served for many years as the Chair of the English Department and was the Director of the Kirkpatrick Signature Series prior to his current position.
Dean Mason was born into a military family in Texas. His father, an Air Force pilot, was killed during the Korean War when Dean Mason was very young. His mother remarried another Air Force pilot and the family moved around for a few years until finally settling on a farm in South Dakota.
“It was a beautiful place to grow up,” said Mason, “I enjoyed the natural surroundings, as nature has always been emotionally and spiritually important to me and to the poetry I write.”
Dean Mason earned his bachelor’s and master’s degrees from the University of South Dakota and then, in 1981, he earned his doctorate from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln — right about the time he started at Bellevue University.
Dean Mason is passionate about poetry and fiction and admires the greats like Walt Whitman, Elizabeth Bishop, James Joyce, and Tolstoy. He has authored several poems which have been inspired by nature. “The ever regenerating quality of the natural world –” Dean Mason explained, “that there is life in abundance and it keeps coming forth in so many wonderful forms – this is infinitely appealing to me and I can’t learn enough about it.”
Dean Mason is particularly happy with two poems, “October Butterfly” and “The Otter,” which he said, “summarize my thoughts and feelings about the beauty of the natural world.” To satisfy his love of fiction, Dean Mason is currently working on a fantasy novel.
He also finds joy in observing the natural beauty of thriving students, who become molded into “wonderful forms” as a result of their educations. He believes Bellevue University has been an outstanding influence in changing their lives for the better.
“What stood out to me in 1981 and is still true today,” explained Dean Mason, “is that students are at the center of everything we do. We are about serving them and helping them make their dreams come true; about helping them gain the knowledge and skill set that an undergraduate or graduate education can provide.”
“I’ve witnessed Bellevue University become such a powerful force in terms of opening doors for students by creating opportunities for workplace advancement and new jobs. It has been a remarkable thing to watch and take part in over these many years.”
Dean Mason has taken an interest in all of his students’ growth and development, but one in particular — a young veteran suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) —stands out. “At first,” explained Dean Mason, “he was very timid and kept a low profile, but the curriculum of the humanities class and the democratic themes of the Kirkpatrick Signature Series interested him and brought him out of his shell. He began taking part in discussions, offering brilliant ideas. He became a leader in class and after graduation he went on to a successful career.”
According to Dean Mason, the atmosphere at the University also played a big part in helping the young man come alive, and naturally, his message to prospective students echoes the same theme.
“If you come to Bellevue University, you will find a warm and welcoming environment,” he said, “from admissions officers, to the folks in financial aid, student coaches, and the faculty and other staff. In every stage of your experience you will find a person who is directly interested in your success and you will learn in a highly engaging and stimulating environment.”
One thing is for certain. As students explore their futures, this highly talented educator and University leader will continue his own exploration and keep expressing the beauty of his natural surroundings.