Robert C. Mason, 76, who led the development of the graduate studies program in adult continuing education at NIU into a nationally and internationally recognized program, passed away at home in Scottsdale, Arizona, on Dec. 3, 2016, with his family at his side. He was a much-loved husband, father, grandfather, brother, uncle, cousin and friend. He was also a highly respected educator. Bob was born in Waco, Texas, on Feb. 26, 1940. During his teenage years his family moved near Elgin, Nebraska. Bob graduated from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln in 1962 with an agricultural education degree. He later returned to the university to complete his doctoral degree in adult education in 1969. He taught vocational agriculture in Seward, Nebraska, served as associate dean at the College of Lake County in Grayslake, Illinois, and then moved to Northern Illinois University in 1970, where he served on the faculty for 31 years before retiring in 2001.
At NIU, Bob was a visionary leader who surrounded himself with some of the best adult educators of the time. Bob’s student-centered approach showed in his push to expand the off-campus reach of the program throughout northern Illinois and Chicago and in his efforts to increase the minority student population in the program. He became associate dean of continuing education in 1979, where he promoted lifelong learning and the interaction of graduate studies with the practice of adult education. At the time of his retirement he was director of the Office of Research and Evaluation in Adult Continuing Education at NIU (REACE), where he used his grant writing skills to generate multiple opportunities for graduate students to gain experience in the practice of adult education.
Bob was active in a number of professional organizations, including the American Association for Adult and Continuing Education (AAACE), the National University Continuing Education Association (NUCEA), the Commission of Professors of Adult Education (CPAE) and the Illinois Adult and Continuing Educators Association (IACEA). He authored and edited books, chapters and articles that focused on leadership and administration of adult education programs and agencies. Bob was a mentor to many students who became successful administrators and adult educators in their own right.
Shortly after retirement, Bob and his wife, Madene, moved to Scottsdale. In retirement Bob and Madene loved to travel and completed their goal of traveling to all seven continents in 2012. Besides his wife, Bob is survived by two sons, Terry (Beth) Mason of Menomonie, Wisconsin, and Scott Mason of Phoenix, Arizona, and three grandchildren, Samuel, Suzanne and Shannon. He is also survived by three brothers, two sisters and many cousins, nieces and nephews. A memorial service was held at Park Congregational UCC Church of Elgin, Nebraska, on Dec. 10, 2016. Memorial contributions will be donated to the National Parkinson’s Foundation or the Park Church Cemetery Association of Elgin, Nebraska.