Licensing and Regulatory Affairs
December 11, 2015
Dr. Marylou Olivarez Mason, Executive Director of the Michigan Hispanic/Latino Commission (HLC), has announced she will retire from state government, effective Dec. 31, 2015. Mason has led the HLC (previously the Office on Spanish Speaking Affairs) for almost thirty years, beginning in January of 1986. She was the first woman to hold that position.
“Marylou Mason has spent her career working with Michigan’s Hispanic-Latino community,” said Agustin Arbulu, Executive Director of the Michigan Department of Civil Rights, the state department where HLC is housed. “We are grateful for her many years of service to the state, and congratulate her on a well-deserved retirement.”
Mason was born in San Antonio, Texas, and came to Michigan as a child to work with her family as a seasonal farmworker. After several years, her family settled permanently in Saginaw, where she graduated from St. Joseph High School and the Saginaw School of Nursing. She held various positions in the medical field until 1977 when she joined the Michigan Department of Civil Rights as assistant to the District Director of the Saginaw Community Relations Bureau. In 1981, she transferred to the Civil Rights Office in Lansing as an investigator. In March of 1986, she became Assistant Director of the Commission on Spanish Speaking Affairs, and in August of that year, she was appointed Executive Director of the Commission by Governor James Blanchard.
While serving as Executive Director of the HLC, Mason initiated the Michigan Hispanic Heritage Month celebration, the Hispanic Student Summit and Legislative Advocacy Day at the state capitol. She has served on a number of local, state and national boards and commissions, and was the first Hispanic woman to serve on the Lansing Community College Board of Trustees.
Mason has received numerous awards and recognitions during her career, including the Diana L. Gorham Lifetime Achievement Award from the Greater Lansing YWCA for her extensive work in government; the Cesar Chavez Community Service Award from the United States Hispanic Leadership Institute; the Ordinary Women Doing Extraordinary Things Award from the Michigan Chapter of the National Women's History Project; and the Regional Mujer Award from the National Hispana Leadership Institute. She received an honorary doctorate from Great lakes Bay Early College for her community work at the state, national and international levels. In October 2014, she was inducted into the Michigan Women's Hall of Fame.
Mason has served on advisory councils for three presidents of Mexico – Vincente Fox, Felipe Calderon, and Enrique Pina Nieto – and in 2005, she received the OHTLI award, the highest award the Mexican government bestows on an individual outside Mexico.
Mason was married to the late George E. Mason, retired Assistant Attorney General. She has four sons and one daughter, fourteen grandchildren and four great grandchildren.