Michael Mason

Michael Mason

Mason Urges Graduates to "Get Excited About What You Do"

April 30, 2006

BLOOMINGTON, Ill. -- Illinois Wesleyan University, in its 156th year, held commencement ceremonies today at 1 p.m. in the Shirk Center for 493 graduates and their families.

The commencement speaker was Michael Mason, a 1980 Illinois Wesleyan graduate.  Mason is a 21-year veteran of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and currently serves as the bureau’s acting executive assistant director for administration.  The University also awarded Mason an honorary degree, the Doctor of Humane Letters.

Read Mason's entire speech or watch the speech in streaming video.

View Photos from Commencement.

In his address to the graduates, Mason took issue with the notion that college represents “the best four years” of one’s life.  He said, “If you were to ask me what the best four years of my life were, I would have to tell you that I am not finished living my life. …”

He further challenged them to seek opportunities to contribute to society, whatever their environment or circumstance, and to understand that one’s work in any field can contribute to the greater good.  To illustrate, Mason told a story about the late U.S. President Lyndon Johnson visiting the NASA Space Center at Cape Canaveral.  In his tour through the complex, Johnson noticed a man standing near a bucket holding a mop and he made his way over to meet the man. When Johnson asked him what he did at NASA, the man replied, “Mr. President, I come here to work every day to help put a man on the moon.”

In his speech, for which he received a standing ovation, Mason urged graduates to “Get excited about what you do ... or find something else to do.  Don’t let life just happen to you; do not let the winds of fate blow you from one locale to another, one job to another. ...You decide what you will do.  Becoming an agent was a lifelong dream for me, but it is the reality of being an agent that has kept me in this career for these many years.”

Mason’s career with the FBI began in 1985 as a special agent.  His initial assignments involved narcotics investigations, often working undercover, and he served on the office’s SWAT team as a sniper/observer.  He also served at bureau headquarters and oversaw the resident agency in Syracuse, N.Y. and the field offices in Buffalo, N.Y., and Sacramento, Calif.

In July 2003 he was appointed assistant director in charge of the FBI’s Washington Field Office, the bureau’s second largest with 700 agents. The appointment put him in charge of some of the most important and perplexing cases facing the bureau, including anthrax and ricin investigations, cyber-crime and health-care and government fraud.

Prior to Mason’s address, University President Richard F. Wilson announced the recipients of 15 commencement honors awards given to students graduating with academic distinction.

CONTACT:  Patricia Bass (309) 556-3181