With a gift-in-kind of $262,000 to The University of Southern Mississippi Foundation, Southern Miss alumnus Mike Mason is helping beautify the Hattiesburg campus while reducing water consumption.
Mason was born with Southern Miss spirit in his DNA, which is to be expected considering he grew up in a house that backed up to the University president’s backyard. After leaving Southern Miss, Mason ventured on a career path that led him to Texas. In 1993, he became president and chief executive officer of Weathermatic, a small manufacturer of irrigation components in Garland, Texas, a suburb of Dallas.
Under Mason’s leadership, Weathermatic has become the world’s leading provider of water-conserving technology and services in the irrigation systems industry. Weathermatic products have been installed in more than 80 countries around the world in high-profile properties including Cowboys Stadium, Arlington National Cemetery and Buckingham Palace.
Throughout his successful career, Mason has remained connected to his alma mater. Shortly after the tornado ripped through Hattiesburg in February 2013, Mason returned to his hometown to visit his family and see the damage on the Southern Miss campus.
“When I looked at what was left of the front landscape of our campus, there was no way I could breeze past the devastation,” he recalled. “I always knew I was going to give back to the University, and it was clear this was the time to start.”
As University officials were developing the Landscape Restoration and Enhancement Plan, Mason worked with the USM Foundation to help provide the University with a high-tech irrigation control system that would transform the way the Hattiesburg campus used and conserved water.
Developed by Weathermatic in 2004, SmartLine is a water-saving control system that has been installed on more than 250,000 properties around the world. SmartLine saves customers an average of 38 percent on water use by featuring weather-based watering options that auto-adjust based on temperature, humidity and precipitation. The system is controlled by the SmartLink Wireless Landscape Network. This web-based solution allows immediate access to the entire irrigation system with the ability to make programming changes, view real-time conservation reports and shut down the system in an emergency, all from the convenience of a computer, smartphone or tablet.
“We have been working to improve the University’s irrigation system and reduce water consumption for many years, and thanks to the generosity of Mike Mason and Weathermatic, we are finally able to achieve our goal,” said Loren Erickson, superintendent of campus landscape. “This will make an immediate impact on our campus and will also continue to improve its appearance for years to come.”
According to Mason, outdoor water use accounts for 70 percent of annual water usage in the South. Meanwhile, the cost of water has increased 25 percent since 2010 across the US. The increasing scarcity of water suggests this trend will continue with water rates rising and increased focus on sustainable landscape irrigation practices.
Commercial properties use approximately one million gallons of landscape water per acre every year, Mason explained. In addition to the 70 acres that are currently irrigated on the Southern Miss Hattiesburg campus, the University plans to irrigate 40 more acres as part of the irrigation expansion. By using SmartLine and SmartLink, it is estimated that the annual amount of water used to irrigate the campus will decrease from more than 200 million gallons to less than 100 million gallons even with the expanded coverage.
“I am grateful for the leadership of Dr. Bennett, Bob Pierce, Chris Crenshaw and Loren Erickson to help fulfill this opportunity that few other campuses have the ability to execute,” said Mason. “It is my goal to not only make Southern Miss the most beautifully landscaped campus in the south, but to also set the precedent for sustainability; leading the globe in water conservation not just in word but in action.”
In 2012, Mason launched Save Water | Give Life to promote water conservation and build wells for those without access to clean water. Weathermatic donates $1 per SmartLink connection per month and five percent of sustainability services revenue to the cause. You can learn more about the Save Water | Give Life campaign at weathermatic.com/our-cause.
Mason views his ability to give back as an expression of his mission in life. “At the end of my life, I want to be able to say that I have given more than I’ve taken and know that I used the resources God blessed me with to be benevolent to those in need.”
In recognition of Mason’s generosity, a classroom in Scianna Hall, the new College of Business building, will be named in his honor.