Zayed University Assistant Professor Mason, Ottoman expert, dies at age 46
By Dr. David W. Bulla
ABU DHABI—Dr. David Charles Mason died on 29 March 2017 in a Dubai hospital. The HSS professor was serving as a visiting professor from Zayed University to American University of Sharjah at the time of his death.
The cause of death was ulcerative colitis, which resulted in an infection and sepsis. Dr. Mason needed a liver transplant, and his failing liver compromised his immune system, leading to the sepsis.
Dr. Mason, 46, is survived by his wife, Hatice, and son, Anton, as well as his father, Robert Mason, mother, Jan Foster Mason, and his brother, James Mason.
Dr. Ibrahim Souss, a Humanities and Social Sciences professor, remembers Dr. Mason fondly.
“I will remember David as one of the best scholars and experts on the Ottoman Empire,” Dr. Souss said. “I had numerous discussions with him about the subject, and his erudite knowledge of this system always impressed me. In HSS, he definitely was a great asset.”
Dr. Mason was a popular professor with both students and faculty.
“Dr. Mason was a very well liked member of the ZU family,” said David Howarth, the assistant dean for students in the College of Arts and Creative Enterprises. “He was an excellent faculty member and was highly thought of by the students he taught. His knowledge of the Ottoman Empire was second to none, as was his passion for fictional detective stories. His legacy will live on in his soon-to-be-published book that he was so excited about.”
An assistant professor and native of Canada, Dr. Mason was not only one of the top experts in the world on the Ottoman Empire, he also was a specialist on the history of the Republic of Turkey, as well as nationalism and Islam. As Assistant Dean Howarth noted, Dr. Mason had just published his first book, about the treatment of the downfall of the Ottoman Empire in Turkish detective fiction. The book is titled Investigating Turkey: Detective Fiction and Turkish Nationalism, 1928-1945 (ISBN: 978-1618116284) and will come out in August from Academic Studies Press. The book is based on his 2010 McGill University dissertation and examines the role of propaganda in Turkish nationalism, especially in the early years of the modern republic, through an exploration and analysis of five different detective fiction series.
A native of Thunder Bay, Ontario, Dr. Mason earned his Ph.D. from McGill in Montreal.
He was an extremely popular lecturer at both ZU and AUS. Students at AUS visited Dr. Mason during his final hospital stay and tried to cheer him on social media.
Mrs. Mason said she and her son would return to Montreal. She has established a jewelry business in Abu Dhabi that she plans to take with her back to Canada.
David Charles Mason first came to ZU in August 2011. He was a globetrotter, and his family frequently travelled to visit his wife’s native Turkey. He lived and taught in Istanbul for six years.
Dr. Mason mainly taught in HSS, but he also led some COL courses.
One of his ZU students was Afraa Mohamed Alremeithi, who was greatly saddened by the news of Dr. Mason’s death.
“He was the ultimate definition of an educated, understanding and respectful professor,” said Ms. Alremeithi, who took research methods, Central Asia studies and Ottoman Empire and Turkish Culture with Dr. Mason. “He was the one we would seek out as we fell into the complications of our studies and our lives—he was the one who made us look in the mirror and see ourselves as independent adults. He made us understand the real definition of a university and studies. Dr. Mason would say, ‘I should treat you no different than a Harvard student. You even have much more to offer than they do. Appreciate what you have and give back to the country.’”
Another student, Nour Nasser Al Marzooqi, called Dr. Mason “a one in a million” professor.
“He was a big part of my university experience,” Ms. Al Marzooqi said. “I took most of my classes with him from the beginning and I learned so much from Dr. Mason. Where will I ever find a professor as passionate about teaching as Dr. Mason? Or a professor who considers it a personal failure when the university he teaches in does not make the top of the best universities’ list?”
Jim Buie, who is an instructor in the College of Communication and Media Sciences, audited Mason’s Ottoman Empire and Turkish Culture class in summer 2016.
“I was so impressed with his deep knowledge—he had read more than 800 books on the subject—yet he did not teach over the students’ heads nor was he ever pedantic like some scholars,” Mr. Buie said. “What a vibrant and entertaining personality he demonstrated in the classroom. Many students waited after class to continue speaking, engaging and debating with him. He will always remain an inspiration.
“Before coming to ZU, I spent two years teaching in Turkey, so David and I shared a passion for all things Turkish. His enthusiasm was contagious, and I know he inspired students to visit Turkey and to report back to him on their impressions. His course and conversations with him deepened my own knowledge of my own experiences in Turkey.”
David Oldenkamp, a librarian at the university’s Abu Dhabi campus, began at ZU with Dr. Mason in the fall semester of 2011.
“David Mason was a bright and passionate person,” Mr. Oldenkamp said. “He was engaging to talk to as an individual and was admired and respected by his students and colleagues. David and I bonded over discussions of heavy metal music (I recall a discussion of Black Sabbath in particular), and I recall him asking me to lend him some David Bowie albums when I got a chance.
“I worked with David to build our library’s collection on Turkey and the Ottoman Empire, and we are a much better library today because of his input. I know how much he loved his wife, Hatice, and their son Anton. David was excited to return to his native Canada this summer to pursue a new life for his family. I will miss David Mason, and I grieve for his family.”
The HSS faculty in Abu Dhabi has a condolence book for the Mason family. It is located in FF2-G1-068. Both students and faculty are encouraged to come by and sign it.
“Professor Mason was a true scholar,” said Dr. Claire Sherman, a ZU advertising professor and friend of the Mason family. “He always had a well-informed opinion of the world. In particular, his views on politics (and politicians) were strong, and I will miss our animated discussions over coffee or just in the corridors of ZU. Underlying these fiery discussions was a strong sense of justice and an impassioned idealism for a better, fairer world and I hope that this will live on through his students.
“As well as his interest in history and politics, Professor Mason was a gentle and caring man, something I witnessed many times in his attentions to his wife Hatice and his little son Anton. Not only did he provide for his family’s future, but he provided unwavering support for his wife Hatice in establishing and building her jewelry business here in the UAE. He was also a loving father and he spent a great deal of time with his son Anton, and I am sure that David’s loving nature will live on through him.”
“David was a great friend and colleague, a passionate scholar and teacher,” said Dr. Jonathan Fulton, who also teaches in HSS. “His curiosity reached far beyond his discipline, and he could talk deeply about literature, travel, sports and faith. His passing is a big loss for Zayed University, and he is missed by his students and colleagues.”
(David W. Bulla is an associate professor in the College of Communication and Media Sciences at Zayed University in Abu Dhabi.)
Link (memorial guestbook for Dr. Mason) where comments can be posted for family and friends to see: