Otis Mason and William Pickard
Florida A&M University (FAMU) will confer honorary degrees on retired educator Otis A. Mason and entrepreneur and philanthropist William F. Pickard, Ph.D. during the Friday, April 29 commencement ceremony. Both men will receive the Doctor of Humane Letters honorary degree.
At the 6 p.m. event in the Lawson Multipurpose Center, FAMU alumnus, St. Petersburg Mayor Ken T. Welch, will address graduates from the College of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences, Institute of Public Health, School of Business and Industry and the College of Social Sciences, Arts and Humanities. A military commissioning ceremony is also scheduled for Friday evening.
Pickard is a nationally known entrepreneur and a staunch supporter of the University. He the executive chairman and founder of GAA Manufacturing and Supply Chain Management, GAA News Ventures, co-managing partner of MGM Grand Detroit Casino, CEO of Bearwood Management McDonald’s and co-owner of five newspapers.
He holds a bachelor’s degree from Western Michigan University, a master’s degree from the University of Michigan and a Ph.D. from Ohio State University. His 50-year entrepreneurial career began as a McDonald’s franchisee in Detroit, Michigan. Since its founding in 1989, GAA has generated more than $5 billion in sales with eight plants in the U.S. and Canada, and services corporations such as Boeing, Mercedes Benz, Ford, General Motors, Chrysler, Delphi, Johnson Controls, Starbucks, Home Depot, and Merck Pharmaceutical.
Pickard has served as the FAMU School of Business and Industry (SBI) Forum speaker during which he shared elements of his book, “Millionaire Moves: Seven Proven Principles of Entrepreneurship,” with thousands of SBI students. He has donated more than $450,000 in scholarship funds to support students with an additional $250,000 pledged to support students from Detroit and the Bahamas.
In his philanthropic efforts, Pickard continues to contribute to education, arts, culture, and entrepreneurship. He was named one of Black Enterprise’s 50 Most Influential Black Entrepreneurs. In 2019, Pickard received the Michigan Lifetime Humanitarian Award from Gov. Gretchen Whitmer.
While Pickard has made his mark in business, Mason is a pioneer in education. The distinguished FAMU alumnus is the first African American elected school superintendent in Florida.
Mason earned a bachelor’s degree in physical education with honors from FAMU in 1950. He received his master’s degree in education administration at New York University in 1958. He has demonstrated servant leadership throughout his personal and professional life. He tirelessly served the St. Johns County community as a teacher, a principal, an instructional supervisor, and as the elected superintendent of schools.
Mason served as the St. Johns County School Superintendent for eight years before retiring in 1992. During his tenure, Mason was inducted into FAMU’s Gallery of Distinguished Educators and named to the University’s Sports Hall of Fame for baseball. Determined to pass it forward, he also worked to send many St. Augustine students to FAMU. Many later returned to St. Johns County as teachers. As a tribute to Mason’s contributions to education, an elementary school in St. Augustine was named in his honor.
At the 9 a.m. Saturday commencement ceremony, Disneyland Resort Vice President for Marketing and Commercial Strategy Sybil Crum, a FAMU alumna, will address graduates from the College of Law, FAMU-FSU College of Engineering, College of Education, College of Agriculture and Food Sciences, School of Journalism & Graphic Communication, School of Nursing, School of Allied Health Sciences, College of Science and Technology, School of the Environment, and School of Architecture and Engineering Technology.
Tickets are not required for the Spring 2022 Commencement ceremonies. However, guests are expected to remain seated during the events and standing will not be permitted in the concourse. The clear bag policy will be enforced. The ceremony can also be viewed on YouTube at FAMUTube1887 or Facebook at FAMU1887.
For more information visit: https://www.famu.edu/students/commencement/index.php.