Mason Clock a Landmark in More Ways Than One

Posted: July 28, 2008 at 1:00 am, Last Updated: November 30, -0001 at 12:00 am

By Nick Walker

No matter where he is, whenever John Butler hears a clock chime, he instantly thinks of Mason.

Butler, BA Integrative Studies ’99, served as the Student Government president in 1999. He was the first to suggest the idea for the Mason clock. Today, the clock is one of the most recognizable landmarks of the Fairfax Campus.

“The clock idea came to mind because I felt the buildings at Mason were all very new, and there was no sense of anything long term. A lot of universities have old buildings and historic elements throughout the campus, and I felt Mason students were lacking that a little bit,” says Butler, who today remains connected to Mason as part of the New Century College External Advisory Board.

The clock is located on the North Plaza between the Johnson Center and Robinson Hall. In addition to providing a multidirectional display of the current time, the clock serves as a focal point for campus activities. Meetings, rallies, protests, candlelight vigils and numerous other events are held on the North Plaza.

Mason clock on the Fairfax Campus
Alum John Butler came up with the idea of the clock as a way to establish a sense of history for Mason.
Creative Services photo

To make the clock a reality, Butler worked with Student Government, his classmates and Maurice Scherrens, Mason senior vice president.

“It was a joint venture between the university, the Alumni Association and Student Government,” Scherrens says.

“I really have to thank Maurice Scherrens because he was willing to sit down and listen to an idea,” Butler says. “Scherrens invested the time, energy and resources needed to make this clock a reality, as did the employees at the physical plant.”

The total cost of the clock was estimated at around $15,000.

“Members of the Class of 1999 contributed $5,000 toward the purchase of the clock. Their generosity paved the way for a student giving campaign,” says Kira Woitek, director of Annual Giving for the Development Office.

A plaque on the clock gives the names of dozens of alumni donors, with special recognition to those who contributed larger amounts of money.

“From that point on, the Development Office has been managing a student giving campaign,” Woitek says. “The next year, the Class of 2000 donated the portrait of George Mason in the Johnson Center. We’ve shifted our student fund-raising focus away from tangible items and more toward scholarship initiatives.”

The Office of Annual Giving reported a record-high participation rate among alumni donors in 2008.

“The purpose of the student giving campaign is to educate students about giving back before they leave,” Woitek says. “If 100 people each give $20, it has a big impact. This year, a donation of $20.08 gets your name on a plaque in the Johnson Center.”

“The clock was pretty ambitious for a graduating class gift,” says Lawrence Czarda, vice president for regional campuses.

“The statue at the end of the plaza and the clock are the two places where people gather all the time. Ceremonies are held there, people take their picture there, etcetera,” Czarda says. “The clock is one of those iconic things at Mason that we don’t have a lot of yet.”

“I would agree with Larry,” says Scherrens. “Students can just say, ‘I’ll meet you at the clock,’ and there’s no question of where they are going to be.”

Nearly a decade after graduating, today Butler is the director of communications and marketing at the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation. Periodically, he reflects back on his time at Mason.

“Mason is an exceptional school, and you can get a degree to make your career a success. But I’m still looking for that small connection, that deeper, long-term thing that clicks with students and draws them back to the university in some fashion,” Butler says.

“For me, every time I am at Mason, I make a point to go back to the clock. I remember it as something important to my senior class when I graduated. Having the hourly chime was very important to me as well. I could be in New York and hear chimes from a church, or in an old historic place and hear chimes like those at Mason. Sometimes it makes you stop and pay attention to your surroundings for even a brief second, or at least makes you think a little bit about the past,” Butler says.

Offering some advice to current students, Butler says, “If you have the ideas, and you can communicate them to people, you can do it.”

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