By Jeff Hendrix
Student Writer, EKU Communications & Marketing
Alec Mason came to Eastern Kentucky University to follow not only his father’s footsteps as a student, but his trails in the sky as a pilot as well.
Sam Mason, who graduated from EKU with a master’s degree in criminal justice in 1988, is in his 27th year as a commercial pilot for American Airlines. Alec, a freshman from Manchester, Maryland, joined the EKU aviation program (aviation.eku.edu) in Fall 2016 and plans to pursue a career soaring the skies.
A father of eight children, Sam had always hoped that he could share his passion for flying with at least one of them. When Alec began showing interest at an early age, his father encouraged him to explore the field. “The summer after his junior year in high school, Alec decided to take a test flight at the local airport,” Sam said. “He was hooked!”
When Alec decided that he wanted to become a pilot, he began looking for aviation programs throughout the country. As he searched for universities, his father’s alma mater came to the forefront. “My Dad absolutely loved the time that he spent here and wishes he could have never left,” Alec said. “I knew that EKU must be something really special for him to love it that much.”
Sam was one of the first 15 students to graduate from the University with an aviation minor, but the school has since developed a full major that has graduated more than 200 licensed pilots. Once Alec was introduced to the program during a campus visit, he didn’t need much more convincing. “After all was said and done, Alec realized that EKU’s program was top-notch and ranked among the best in the country,” Sam said.
Alec was drawn to Eastern by the affordable tuition and living-learning communities, namely the Flight Deck in Clay Hall, where he is currently a resident. “My favorite part about college is getting to be around people every day who share my passion for aviation,” Alec said, “At EKU I live on the Flight Deck, so I am constantly around others who love aviation.”
Alec was also drawn to Eastern by the connections he made with faculty and staff on his initial visit. “Alec was amazed at how many faculty and staff said ‘hello’ as they passed us on campus, he felt like he was at home,” Sam said. “He liked that he was able to interact with so many others during orientation and that he had the chance to visit the aviation department and meet the faculty and staff there as well.”
Though Alec had his pick of aviation programs, he is proud to continue a family tradition at EKU. “It is important to me that my father and I may have started a tradition,” Alec said. “I am following in my father’s footsteps, and I hope to be as successful as he is one day.” Even though his older siblings have chosen different paths, Alec hopes that one day he can encourage his own children to consider EKU Aviation, as well as “anyone who wants to have a great college experience and anyone who is interested in aviation.”
For a father like Sam, there is some reassurance knowing his son is in good hands. “I don’t worry because I know that if something should happen, I can count on any number of faculty and staff,” Sam said. “Because I feel I know what it means when you are part of the EKU family, I never hesitated for Alec to attend school there.”