Rapid urbanization, occurring on every hand today in
Asia, drains from the countryside many of the energetic, able and ambitious young. Even
most graduates from agricultural colleges do not go back to live on the land and apply
their talents to its problems and potential. Rather they seek employment in government
bureaus and private business. Rural villages, meanwhile, seem to stagnate.
WILLIAM F. MASTERSON was broadly prepared to apply himself to this challenge. Born in
Brooklyn, New York, in 1910, he was schooled by the Jesuits. He joined the faculty of
their leading educational institution in the Philippines, Ateneo de Manila, in 1933,
devoting summers to leading boy scouts to Mindanao. Returning to the United States for
theological studies and ordination, he became the wartime business editor of Jesuit
Missions and raised more than US$4 million for postwar rehabilitation in the Philippines.
As Rector of Ateneo de Manila from 1947 to 1950, he reopened the College of Law and
initiated a Graduate School and the Institute of Social Action. Yet amidst these
constructive efforts, he saw the cities profiting at the expense of talents drawn from the
With his transfer to the now Xavier University in Cagayan de Oro, Fr. MASTERSON seized the
opportunity, in 1953, to found a College of Agriculture designed to have "the most
immediate imprint on higher production and income of rural people." With this focus,
extension work came to mean loving to live and work with farmers and organizing their
economic strength through creation of viable cooperatives. Students today work in land
titling, soil testing, feed and market analysis, on a seed production farm and an
agricultural supply cooperative and they produce practical books, pamphlets and a radio
series in Cebuano. Assistance to the College now comes from 14 countries. A telling result
is that two-thirds of the graduates return to farming.
In 1964, supported by the German Catholic Bishop's Fund and the German government,
MASTERSON developed the Southeast Asia Rural Social Leadership Institute (SEARSOLIN) to
give annually to 50 rural leaders from Asian countries eight months of intensive training
in applied agriculture and organization of farmers. Some 450 have experienced this
impelling rural indoctrination. They have come from Hong Kong, Indonesia, Khmer Republic,
Korea, Laos, Macao, Malaysia, Micronesia, Oceania, Sri Lanka, the Philippines, Taiwan,
Thailand and Vietnam. Most attend on scholarships, conditional on a pledge to return for
at least three years to their rural communities.
In electing Rev. Fr. WILLIAM FRANCIS MASTERSON to receive the 1974 Ramon Magsaysay Award
for International Understanding, the Board of Trustees recognizes his multinational
education and inspiration of rural leaders prompting their return to and love of the land.