Linda A. Mason, president and cofounder of Bright Horizons Children's Centers Inc., the nation's largest provider of corporate-sponsored early childhood education, has been chosen in a nationwide balloting of her fellow Yale graduates to serve as an alumni fellow on the Yale Corporation, the University's 19-member governing board.
Bright Horizons operates 163 child development centers in 29 states; its clients include Motorola, the United Nations, Pfizer, Merck, Time Warner, Universal Studios and Paramount Pictures, among others. Recently selected by Fortune magazine as one of the 100 best companies to work for in America, Bright Horizons employs 5,000 people and provides education and care for more than 15,000 children.
Based in Cambridge, Massachusetts, the company recently expanded and now offers about 70 kindergarten programs as well as two private elementary schools. It also is collaborating with a charter school company, and its advisory board includes a leading child development researcher at Yale -- Sharon Lynn Kagan.
"Our decision to create Bright Horizons followed our work in the mid-1980s delivering emergency relief to 400,000 famine and war victims in Africa for Save the Children Federation," says Mason, who founded the company in 1986 with her husband, Roger Brown, also a Yale graduate. The two met at the School of Management (SOM) when both were working toward Master of Public and Private Management degrees.
"We co-directed the national relief effort in Sudan and along the border of Ethiopia, serving primarily children. When we returned to the United States, we felt early childhood education was an area in which we could have an important and positive impact," says Mason.
As a corollary to her public company, Mason also cofounded The Horizons Initiative, a nonprofit organization serving the needs of homeless children throughout the Boston area. The initiative built and operates a large child care center for homeless children, and has built and staffed play spaces in 25 homeless shelters. Created in 1988, the initiative has served more than 1,000 homeless children.
Mason's experience working with disenfranchised populations dates back to the years following her graduation from Yale in 1980 when, she says, "I had the wonderful opportunity to travel to the Thai/Cambodian border, where I was given the responsibility to build and direct an emergency feeding operation for 2,000 Cambodian refugees under the auspices of CARE." Mason found herself working in a war zone when Vietnamese troops reached the refugee camps where hundreds of thousands Cambodians fled when their country was invaded.
While in Thailand, she completed research on relief management, which included interviews not only with ambassadors in Bangkok but guerrillas in the jungle and civilian leaders in Cambodian refugee camps. She and Brown expanded the research into a book titled "Rice, Rivalry, and Politics: Managing Cambodian Relief" (University of Notre Dame Press, 1983). The book has been used in classes at SOM, Harvard Kennedy School and Cornell University, among others.
Mason's work with Bright Horizons has earned her numerous awards, including one of the first Ron Brown Awards for Corporate Leadership, presented recently at a White House ceremony. She also received one of the 1987 Boston Jaycees' Ten Outstanding Young Leaders Awards, the 1997 Cornell University Entrepreneur of the Year award, Working Mother magazine's 1997 "Mothering that Works" Award and Red Book magazine's "Amazing Women of 1998" award. Bright Horizons was selected by Working Mother four years in a row as one of the nation's best companies for working mothers. Mason also was named by Business Week as one of the 1997 Best Entrepreneurs.
Her extensive involvement over the years with Yale SOM has included frequent lectures -- such as a recent presentation on starting a company as part of the Perspectives in Management series -- and numerous panel discussions. She served on the SOM alumni board 1986-89 and was appointed in 1996 as one of the three alumni to serve along with business leaders on Dean Jeffrey Garten's new SOM advisory board.
Mason earned a bachelor's degree in history at Cornell University,
followed by a year of study at the Université de Sorbonne in Paris,
France. She was in the third graduating class at SOM. She and her husband
live in Belmont, Massachusetts, with their three children ranging in age
from 2 to 9 years old.