Jack Wood Legacy Award Recipients

The Legacy award recognizes leadership achievement in town-gown relations over a period of time longer than five years.

 2022 John Tilghman “Til” Hazel Jr.:

John Tilghman “Til” Hazel Jr. was a visionary real estate lawyer and developer who recognized the impact George Mason University could have as the anchor for the region. He cleared the way for the university’s emergence by working with officials to secure 421 acres for the Fairfax Campus. He was also the driving force behind Mason acquiring a law school in the 1970s.

In service to the university almost since its inception in 1957, Til Hazel has been a chief philanthropist, patron, cheerleader, and champion of the university both locally and at the General Assembly in Richmond.

Til Hazel’s most influential work on behalf of the university took place behind the scenes. He mobilized the Northern Virginia business community to support and work with the university, creating a symbiotic relationship between Mason and the region’s business interests that exists to this day.

Til Hazel engaged in a years-long tussle in Richmond lobbying for the university to be permitted to create a law school and ultimately brokered a deal between the university and the financially strapped International School of Law in Arlington—with Til Hazel co-signing the $3 million note that also netted real estate near the Metro in Arlington, laying the foundation in 1979 for what would become Mason’s Arlington Campus.

In addition, in the mid-90s Til Hazel founded the Virginia Business Higher Education Council to bring together the state’s business leaders and university presidents to oppose state budget cuts to higher education.

Til Hazel was truly a leader in town-gown relations. He died March 15 of this year at the age of 91.

2020 Dr. Harold Geller:

Photo by Alexis Glenn

The Mason Observatory, under the leadership of Director Dr. Harold Geller and Deputy Director Peter Plavchan, has engaged the local community for over a decade with bi-weekly “Evening Under the Stars” public lectures, fostering strong ties with the 700+ member Northern Virginia Astronomy Club, and through frequent weekly private tours for local scout troops, schools, and others. More recently, the Observatory was used by a couple to look at Saturn’s rings which was followed by a marriage proposal! That couple will always remember their ties to Mason. Earlier this year the Observatory was featured in an episode of the Air and Space Museum’s STEM in 30 web series. Dr. Geller has been instrumental in building relations with the surrounding community through stimulating presentations on the mysteries of outer space given by world-class astronomers, researchers, and educators under his direction.

2019 Dr. R. Christian Jones:

Dr. R. Christian Jones, Director, Potomac Environmental Research and Education Center, Environmental Science and Policy, began a long-term “green to clean” partnership in 1984 by collaboratively developing a monitoring plan designed to document algae counts, monitor water quality, fish, invertebrates and aquatic plants in Gunston Cove, downstream from the Noman Cole wastewater treatment plant, which at that time had just implemented a new protocol that removed phosphorus, an essential nutrient for algae growth, from the purified water they returned to the river. This partnership has helped train and launch careers of dozens of students, and paved the way for additional community collaborations, culminating in the creation of the Potomac Environmental Research and Education Center (PEREC), and the building of its home, Mason’s Potomac Science Center. For the past seven years, in partnership with Alexandria Renew Enterprises, Dr. Jones’ PEREC team has initiated a more multifaceted study to document water quality and aquatic ecosystem trends in Hunting Creek, downstream of the AlexRenew wastewater treatment plant. Long-term partnerships such as these, and others with Fairfax and Prince William Counties, has fostered mutually beneficial relationships with a multitude of local, state, and national agencies and organizations, while bettering the quality of life for the community.

2018 Toni-Michelle C. Travis:

Dr. Toni-Michelle C. Travis has been a Mason faculty member for three decades. During this time she has been one of the more externally engaged faculty serving in community organizations, speaking to local community groups via direct contacts as well as through the Mason Speakers program, representing Mason in the media, serving as a member of the Metropolitan Relations Advisory Board, serving as a member of the External Academic Relations Committee of the Faculty Senate, hosting and producing the Capitol Region Roundtable television public affairs program, serving as a member of the Cosmos Club, a private social club for men and women distinguished in science, literature, the arts, or public service, and many other activities. Her external outreach on behalf of Mason is extensive and she is truly deserving of this recognition for her many years of dedicated service and leadership in town-gown relations.

2017 Tom Calhoun:

From 2005 to 2017, Tom expertly navigated Mason through a period of explosive transition and growth, which was not always met with positive reaction from the surrounding community.  Through countless presentations at Mason/Community Forums, Fairfax Campus Advisory Board Meetings, and constant proactive conversations with local elected officials and staff, Tom guided the lengthy, complex, and often challenging town-gown process to transform Mason from a regional university to the largest public research university in Virginia.

His leadership both directly and indirectly has resulted in collaborative efforts with Fairfax City and County for multi-modal transportation, including bike trails, CUE bus transportation, and a transportation terminal to name a few. He has led, co-led, and supported numerous community outreach and partnership endeavors related to Mason’s land use opportunities including the joint VisionFairfaxMason Charrette with the City of Fairfax, and our own Arlington Campus, SciTech Campus, and West Campus Charrettes.

Tom has been perceived by the community as genuine, honest, knowledgeable and unflappable. His calm demeanor, responsiveness and diplomacy assured community members and diffused tempers and situations that could have gone in a more negative direction. It is for these examples and many others that we proudly present the Jack Wood Award for Town Gown Relations to Tom Calhoun.