Oklahoma State University announced this week that, through a $500,000 gift from the Masonic Charity Foundation of Oklahoma, an endowed faculty chair of $2 million for men’s studies has been established. The gift will create the Masonic Fraternity of Oklahoma Gender Studies Chair, which will be housed within the College of Arts and Sciences.
The total impact of the $2 million chair was created when the Masonic Foundation took advantage of a $100 million match commitment made to the university by OSU alumni and Texas oilman, T. Boone Pickens. Mr. Pickens made a dollar for dollar match available to any organization that endowed a faculty chair at OSU before June 30, 2008. To sweeten the incentive, the Oklahoma Board of Regents for Higher Education, through a commitment made by the Oklahoma legislature, then matched both the Foundation and Mr. Pickens gift dollar for dollar, creating the endowed chair in the name of the Masonic fraternity. You could say we were in the right place with the right vision at the right time.
As a Board member of our Masonic Foundation, I am personally very excited that we have taken on this partnership with academia. We live in a time when fraternal associations are often not understood, where gender differences in communication and behavior are not well known, where the qualities of manhood are discounted in areas as important as fatherhood, male role modeling, social responsibility, family and community leadership. The world little understands the role Freemasonry has played in enhancing and teaching the ideals of manhood; nor its significance in the creation of civil society, or its focus on the self improvement of the individual and the larger society.
Academia has just recently “discovered” the historical importance of Freemasonry through studies by Bullock, Stevenson, and Jacob. Much more can be done in analyzing the role gender-specific organizations have played in enhancing the physical, social and psychological health of men. Much can be learned from studies in inter-generational communication and social interaction among males; and the impact a positive group identity has on the esteem and social honor of being a man. There are presently few studies focused on what Freemasonry teaches, or the importance of ritual and ritualistic models to self and group instruction; the significance of ceremony to social stability; or the nature and purpose of object-centered sociality.
Freemasonry is first and foremost the study of men and manhood. Through its rituals, its inter-generational fraternal associations, and its connectedness across all communities, states, provinces and nations, it raises a global awareness of the importance of men in society.
I’m especially pleased that the Center for Gender Studies exists at OSU. It is a multi-disciplinary center that enables and facilitates academic research in gender across the fields of sociology, psychology, philosophy and history. It is a perfect match for the work of which Freemasonry is engaged.
The Masonic Fraternity of Oklahoma Chair in Gender Studies can connect the purpose, heritage, teachings and history of our organization with research aims of professionals and students across every academic discipline in which Freemasonry has a founding.
Perhaps most importantly, it will introduce masculine psychology, fraternal purpose, men’s interests, and social networking to a new generation of young college men and women interested in researching the importance of men and the role men play in enhancing the stability of family and social life, as well as the economic and social progress of society.
I can’t think of a more strategic route for addressing the ideals of manhood and a higher awareness of the importance of men in society. Today, I am really proud to be a Mason—and feel hope for men in our society.