Jimmy Hazel appreciates the opportunities that abound at George Mason University—not only for students, faculty and staff, but for eager supporters willing to invest their time to help shape the university’s future.
At Commencement on Saturday, Hazel will receive the university’s highest honor, the Mason Medal, for his three decades of service to George Mason. The real honor for the local businessman, however, is continuing to play an active role in the university’s emergence.
“This is a place where you can put forward new ideas, and there are people willing to give them a chance,” Hazel said. “That makes it fun to be involved. At some places, tradition can prevent new events and new ideas from moving forward. Here we develop our own traditions.”
Since graduating from Mason’s law school in 1984, Hazel has served as president of the Law Alumni Association, as chair and trustee of the George Mason University Foundation, as a member of the Board of Visitors, and as president of the university’s Alumni Association.
Hazel currently serves as chair of the Board of Visitors development committee as well as chair of the Faster Farther campaign. In addition, he has endowed three university funds to benefit faculty and students, and he has supported many other initiatives to benefit the Mason community.
“Jimmy has served the university in every possible way,” Mason President Ángel Cabrera said. “He even came to visit me in Arizona when I was announced as Mason president, to welcome me, to offer his help. For more than 30 years, he has been a firm believer in Mason and in the value that a world-class research university in Northern Virginia provides to the commonwealth.”
Growing up a short walk from the Fairfax Campus, Hazel absorbed Mason talk at the dinner table and observed Mason support from his family. His father, John “Til” Hazel Jr., considered one of the founding fathers of Mason, was awarded the first Mason Medal in 1987.
“People who have received the Mason Medal in years past are the folks who were visionaries and got things started here,” Hazel said. “I think a lot of them didn’t know where we’d be today as a university―the largest public university in the state, a Carnegie Tier-1 research university―but they knew we’d have a bright future. I feel much the same now. We have not reached our full potential.”
Hazel will continue to find ways for the university to maximize that potential. Receiving Mason’s highest honor is just a milestone along the way.
“I appreciate everything the Mason Medal means,” Hazel said. “But that doesn’t mean it’s time to sit back and let somebody else do everything.”