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Mason, Myra



  • Existence: December 12, 1936 - March 19, 2020

Biographical Information

Myra Debow Mason was born in Indianapolis, Indiana to Franceda Cross and Charles DeBow, Jr in 1936. Her father, Charles DeBow Jr, was a member of the Tuskegee Airmen who helped sue the federal government in order to win African Americans the right to fly military combat airplanes during World War II.

Mason attended Indiana University as a theatre major and taught in the speech and drama department at King Kennedy College after earning her degree. She earned a Master's and PhD in higher education from the University of Chicago. Mason began her career in education as a public school teacher in Chicago, followed by a period of working as a community college instructor. She later worked as the minority affairs director for Indiana University's School of Dentistry in Indianapolis and became the statewide director of educational opportunity for the central office of Indiana Vocational Technical College. Through the "Hoosier Plan for Minority Enforcement" program, Mason helped to increase the number of minority students and faculty at the eight Indiana University campuses. She was also the co-founder of the Indiana Coalition of Blacks in Higher Education.

In 1993, Mason came to Purdue University as the Director of Diversity and Multicultural Affairs, a position that she held until 1997. Myra believed that "Americans shouldn't have to ask to be treated with respect." As a result of that belief, she was instrumental in drafting the Purdue University anti-harassment policy of 1994 that has since become a model for other universities. Mason's advice to students was to maintain their unique identities, learn from people and experiences as well as from books, believe in themselves, and achieve self-actualization. While at Purdue, she also co-chaired several Holocaust Remeberance Conferences with Rabi Gideon Cagel.

Throughout her career, Mason remained committed to serving the community and was a leader in developing diversity and inclusion initiatives in Indiana. In her role as the Assistant Commissioner of the Indiana Private School Accrediting Commission, she assisted with the establishing of Martin College. She served on the board of the Indiana Black Expo, and organized the NAACP ACTSO awards where she helped identify local students to compete at National NAACP conventions. She was also a member of the Indianapolis Chapter of Tuskagee Airmen in honor of her father. Mason served as a Docent at the Indianapolis Museum of Art, where she served on the education committee for 25 years and helped select scholarship recipients.

Mason had two children, Harold Harris III and Gena Virginia Mason (deceased). Myra DeBow Mason died in March 2020 in Indianapolis, Indiana.


Found in 1 Collection or Record:

Council on the Status of Women records

 Collection — Multiple Containers
Identifier: MSP 49
Overview The collection includes meeting minutes, correspondence, handouts, newspaper clippings, and electronic media that document the Council on the Status of Women and its activities.
Dates: 1988 - 2012