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He Helped Mason Grow and Thrive

Few figures in George Mason University history have served in as many roles as Joseph A. Heastie, MPA ’84. He has been a student, Board of Visitors (BOV) member, and Alumni Association Board president, and he has led Mason efforts related to diversity and access.

Board of Visitors Rector Tom Davis, Mason Medal winner Joseph A. Heastie, and President Ángel Cabrera during Commencement 2019. Photo by Ron Aira

At Mason’s Spring Commencement, Heastie received the Mason Medal, the university’s highest honor, for his many years of service.

“There’s a great sense of pride to think that I was a part of the transition of watching the school become what it has become,” says Heastie, a resident of nearby Vienna, Virginia.

In less than 20 years, Heastie earned a master of public administration at Mason (attending graduate school as a father of two with a full-time government IT job) and served two stints on the Board of Visitors, chairing key committees as secretary, vice rector, and rector. Then came time on Mason’s Alumni Association [1] Board, including a term as president.

Heastie also is the father of a Mason alum—daughter Eleanor Barber, MEd Counseling and Development ’96.

“I felt at one point in time that at least half of my adult life I was at Mason doing something or other,” Heastie says with a laugh. In 2000, he received the Alumni Service Award.

Heastie played an important role in the university prioritizing access to higher education. He chaired the BOV’s Equal Employment Opportunity and Affirmative Action Committee. After Heastie’s second BOV term, Mason President George W. Johnson asked him to help develop what became the Diversity Advisory Board. That group brought together minority executives and business owners in Northern Virginia to raise scholarship money for minority students and to pair working students with career-relevant jobs tied to their majors.

Throughout his service at Mason, Heastie was impressed with the caliber of faculty the young university attracted and with the creative and aggressive leadership from Johnson and local business leaders. They shared a vision of how a budding research university could anchor the region, and how an initial emphasis on computer-related majors could set the university apart from its more established state peers.

“At the time that I got on the BOV, Mason was a lot smaller school and did not have the physical facilities,” Heastie says. “But still it had kind of an attitude about it that it was going to not compromise on quality of education or quality of anything that it pursued or tried to do. I believe they’ve accomplished that.”