Eli Mason Memorial Remarks from President Stan Altman

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Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen.  I’m Stan Altman, President of Baruch College and I welcome you to Baruch to celebrate the life of our great friend Eli Mason. 

At a time like this, I find myself asking “how do we measure the value of a person’s life?” We know how to measure many things, the economic activity of nations, the graduation rate of children from schools, our height and weight, and the accumulation of wealth. And yet in terms of our most precision gift, our life, there is little agreement about how to value it. Philosophers and religious leaders have offered the advice that the value of one’s life should be measured by a person’s service to others. Advances in technology have given scientists the tools to explore the physical workings of the human body, and their research now tells us that “doing good” through service to others is good for us. We are healthier and live a more fulfilled life.

Using service to others as our metric to measure the value of a person’s life, we can only conclude that Eli Mason passed from us as one of the richest men in the world.  He loved Baruch College and all it stands for. He understood that Baruch is more than bricks and mortar. That it is more than a collection of exceptional faculty members. He understood that Baruch is a unique institution that both transforms the lives of its students and also prepare them to take their rightful place in society – whether it is being an active member of their community or leaders of industry, government or nonprofit organizations. Eli understood the importance of continuity between generations that each of us has a responsibility to ensure that each of our citizens has an opportunity to realize the American Dream.

Eli’s commitment to the College was a very long and very deep one.  Eli graduated from Baruch in 1940.  He became the first president of the Baruch College Fund. He remained one of its most persistent and devoted supporters.  He also remained one of its most effective recruiters – convincing many alumni to become active in the Baruch College Fund and the life of the College.

Eli was always suggesting ways to move the College forward, ways to better fulfill its historic mission of educating young women and men of New York, especially those from families of limited means. He fully understood that the College had changed since his time and he welcomed the changes.  He rejoiced in the racial and ethnic diversity of our students.  He saw Baruch as a school of opportunity for today’s young people, just as it was for him and Claire.

Eli gave much to Baruch College.  He and Claire generously provided the funds to restore this beautiful auditorium where we are gathered today. He remembered this hall as his first stop at Baruch—the place where he registered for his freshman classes.  He also remembered it as the venue where he first saw Milton Berle perform.

Eli and Claire also funded the Mason Distinguished Professorship in Accountancy in 1992.  This is an endowed chair currently held by Professor Douglas Carmichael.  Eli contributed to our annual fundraising appeals and he endowed a conference room in our 22nd Street building, the home of our School of Public Affairs.  Most recently, the Masons jointly created the Claire Mason “Women of Distinction” lecture series.  Above all, Eli gave us the benefit of his love, his concern, and his advice.

Eli Mason was not only a generous citizen to Baruch but also to his profession, Accounting.  Eli Mason was known by all as “the conscience of his profession.” He spoke out forcefully whenever he saw members of the profession veering off course. In his professional as well as in his personal life, his integrity was absolute.

I do not need to recite for you the many professional honors and distinctions that Eli Mason earned over a lifetime.   Most of you know that he was past president of the New York Society of Certified Accountants and past president of the Foundation for Accounting Education as well as past president of virtually every accounting organization of stature in New York State.   In all of his many dealings with Baruch College, Eli Mason remained the modest, unassuming and gentle man you all knew.  When asked why he worked so hard and so long on behalf of Baruch, Eli, like Claire, would repeat that they were simply “paying their tuition.”  We all know that Eli paid it many, many times over.

We thank Claire Mason and their daughters, Judith and Nina, for sharing Eli with us all these years. We are honored that so many of you have joined us today for this memorial. We all have our own memories of Eli, memories that will keep his spirit alive for us and for the future generation of students who will pass through the halls of Baruch College.  His legacy of generosity, hard work and kindly concern for our community will live on.

In closing, I want to say on behalf of the students, faculty, alumni and staff of Baruch College – Eli we thank you for being you and we will always love you.

Thank you.