Dr Lawrence Mason Jr, professor of multimedia, photography and design at Syracuse University, is the first to receive the title.
The American college where he teaches and the mid Annandale town share a deep connection, after the lives of 35 Syracuse students were lost in the 1988 Lockerbie Air Disaster.
At present an annual scholarship is in place, which sends two Lockerbie locals to the university for an all expenses paid year of study.
And the new ambassador role means the 65-year-old professor will be making an annual trip to Dumfriesshire to keep the bonds between the two locations strong.
Explaining the role, the Philadelphia na- tive, said: “I am charged with raising the pro le and signi cance of remembrance on a campus which is rapidly losing to re- tirement most of its faculty and staff that directly knew victims of the bombing of Pan Am Flight 103.
“I am the only person at Syracuse Uni- versity with signi cant ties to both Pan Am 103 and Lockerbie, and I’ve been working on remembrance and Lockerbie links for the better part of 29 years.”
He added: “My contract requires me to visit Lockerbie at least once a year. I enjoy the word “requires” because I have loved every one of my visits to Lockerbie and I am anxious to visit as often as possible.
“I haven’t been to Lockerbie in almost six years. I’ve missed it a lot and am de- lighted that my new position will have me visiting often and for the foreseeable future.”
A major part of his role will be strength- ening the bond between the two commun- ities.
And Dr Mason believes visiting is the key to keeping the connection alive.
He said: “Over the years, more than 100 Syracuse University students have travelled to Lockerbie with me.
“It is fair to say that each has had a transformational experience there.
“Some have returned to Lockerbie on their own. Although visits have proven emotional, we have all come away with a sense of closure and peace that we did not have before the trip.”
He added: “Importantly, we have also come away having formed new friend- ships. Some of these involve relationships with people at Lockerbie Academy, and some involve other residents of the region.
“Every Syracuse person I know who has visited Lockerbie has been made to feel very welcome there. I think the same can be said for Lockardians who visit Syracuse University. I believe both communities have gained much through these friendships. Since one of my duties involves maintaining and growing the relationships between Syracuse University and Lockerbie, I do wish for a greater Lockerbie/Syracuse connec- tion.”
A SERIES of major events to mark the 30th anniver- sary of the disaster are planned to take place at the university this year.
Dr Mason said: “As was true with the 25th anniver- sary, we have a committee working toward staging a series of major events on and off campus that t with our remembrance theme of ‘Look back. Act Forward.’
“I am a member of that committee and we are planning speaker panels, perhaps including nota- ble keynote speaker, art exhibits including a cam- pus-wide exhibition fea- turing my photographic work made for my book,
‘Looking For Lockerbie’, public performances, a rose-laying ceremony and other things that are just the beginnings of ideas right now.” Meanwhile, last week a plea for locals in Lockerbie to share their ideas on how they would like to mark the 30th anniversary locally was issued.
And Dr Mason added: “It’s very possible that some Americans might want to come over to mark the anniversary in Locker- bie. This is something that we will be thinking about as our planning evolves. We will, of course, consult with Lockerbie if this idea moves forward.”
Twinning still on the cards
HOPES were high in late 2016 that Lockerbie could become twinned with Syracuse.
Locals, including com- munity councillors and MSP Oliver Mundell, reached out to the city of Syracuse’s former mayor Stephanie Miner.
Speaking of the town’s ‘interminable’ bond, the mayor expressed her hopes that both the City of Syracuse and Lockerbie can use their ‘painful past’ to build a brighter future.
However, since then plans to see the area’s joined together have halted.
And asked his opinion on the twinning idea, Dr Mason said: “It’s really too soon for me to provide a thoughtful answer to this question – I’ve been in the job less than a week.
“One of the rst things I will be doing is listening to the thoughts and ideas of many stakeholders in this relationship and trying to combine them to nd meaningful answers.”