PACIFIC PIONEER ‘LEN’ MASON: 1913-2005

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PACIFIC PIONEER ‘LEN’ MASON: 1913-2005

HONOLULU (Pacific Islands Report, Oct. 14) – A well known cultural anthropologist and old Pacific hand, Dr. Leonard "Len" Mason, died at the age of 92 on Saturday, October 8 in Honolulu after a short illness.

Mason earned his PhD at Yale University, but like many of his generation, his studies were interrupted for a time by wartime service. Mason was part of the Yale project that produced handbooks on Micronesia for the U.S. Navy and his research for the volume on the Marshall Islands sparked his lifelong interest in the Pacific.

He was in the first group of American anthropologists to work in Micronesia when he conducted research in the Marshall Islands for the Navy's postwar Economic Survey of Micronesia in 1946.

Mason joined the University of Hawaii's Department of Anthropology in 1947. In the same year, he administered the Honolulu base for another Navy project, the Coordinated Investigation of Micronesian Anthropology (CIMA). It sponsored over 40 researchers in what was then the U.S. Trust Territory of the Pacific Islands.

CIMA was the largest project of its its kind in the history of American anthropology, and the results laid the baseline for future research in anthropology and linguistics in Micronesia.

In 1948, Mason conducted the first of his several research efforts with the people of Bikini Atoll who were relocated when their ancestral home was selected as a nuclear test site by the United States after the World War II.

In 1947, the University of Hawaii was a small and fledgling institution in the then Territory of Hawaii. The postwar era and the years following statehood in 1959 saw enormous growth in the university and Mason belonged to a core of dedicated faculty whose efforts and commitments shaped today's institution.

Mason was the founder of what is today the Center for Pacific Islands Studies, and he served as its director for most of the years between 1950 and 1965. He also chaired the Department of Anthropology for much of the same period and oversaw the development of its graduate program before taking early retirement in 1969 to engage in consulting and applied work.

During his career, Mason was a visiting professor at several campuses of the University of California, the University of Minnesota, Harvard, Yale and the University of the South Pacific.

The Mason family has scheduled a memorial service at Borthwick Mortuary, 1330 Maunakea, 2 p.m. Sunday, October 16. Aloha attire.

October 14, 2005

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