Kali Mason

It made the difference between going back to school or not, and I’m not sure what I would have done if it hadn’t been for that.

Kali Mason

Without the Bigelow, she wouldn’t have made it.

At least, that’s how Kali Mason tells the story. The 21-year-old, who graduates on May 5 with honors and a Bachelor of Art in Literature and Civilization, was about to start her sophomore year at UB when her father was laid off. Without his income, Mason would have to delay college, get a job, and figure out Plan B.

Desperate, she contacted the financial aid office. Because of her top marks (she had a 3.8 gpa at the time) Mason was invited to apply for a David and Eunice Bigelow Scholarship. Two weeks before the fall semester began in 2010, Mason got the good news: she had won the award.

“The Bigelow was significant. It made the difference between going back to school or not, and I’m not sure what I would have done if it hadn’t been for that. I was afraid I’d never finish college at all,” says Mason, who returned to campus with an intensity to learn and experience as much as possible.

Classes with history professor Thomas Juliusburger (enlivened by his personal accounts of England and studies at Oxford) and philosophy classes with Timothy Eves made Mason hungry to learn more about the subjects and to travel to Europe. During her junior spring, she was accepted to a program in Paros, Greece, where she spent the semester studying philosophy, art history, and ancient history. 

Mason’s passion for learning helped her maintain superlative grades as she balanced school with work-study jobs; she won other scholarships to help pay for college. This year, Mason also interned at the Museum of the City of New York, where she helped host and plan lectures, walking tours of Manhattan, and exhibition openings.

“There was one night where they had a chair on view from the 1930s. It was on loan from the Met [Metropolitan Museum of Art], and they didn’t want anything to happen to it, so they asked me to watch the gallery. I had to babysit the chair,” says Mason.

Mason will see a lot more art in the not-so-distant future: she was accepted to a master’s degree program in museum studies in Florence, Italy, that starts in the fall. And she ultimately hopes to learn how to restore and preserve ancient documents and books or be a museum curator. “I’ve already found a program,” she says with characteristic enthusiasm. “It’s in Canada!”