On Family, Travels, Service and Stevens, the Masseys Remember


Jo-Ann and Dwight Massey ’53

Though Stevens wasn’t co-ed in the 1950s, women were still around Castle Point – librarians and nurses, mothers of students, and, of course, charming young ladies who dated precocious Stevens men. That’s how Dwight Massey ’53 met a Lasell College grad named Jo-Ann, and they’ve been together ever since, through raising a family, serving the country, running businesses and seeing the world.

Dwight’s father and brother, both named Harold, graduated from Stevens in 1923 and 1949, respectively. The younger Harold introduced Dwight to Delta Tau Delta, and a fraternity brother set sophomore Dwight on a blind date with Jo-Ann, a friend of the brother’s girlfriend.

They clicked, and during weekends Jo-Ann would visit Dwight at the Delt house. “The parties were fun,” Jo-Ann remembers. “We knew the mothers were very much a part of Stevens because they would decorate their sons’ rooms. The rooms would look pretty good then, at least in the beginning of the year.”

Dwight roomed with a Delt named Jack Wilcox. When they were getting to know each other, they learned their mothers had been friends at Hackensack High School in the 1920s. Jack and Dwight extended the family friendship for another generation. When Dwight got sick with mononucleosis, Jack helped him. “I missed six weeks, which you just couldn’t do at Stevens,” Dwight remembers. “Jack was a big help getting me back on track with my studies.”

Though Dwight bonded with his Delt brothers and devoted himself to a budding romance, he was also a serious student, a must in those days of high washout rates. “I had to study a lot,” he said. “I just acquired work habits. Stevens in those days was, as it is today I'm sure, a pretty disciplining type of education.”

Dwight graduated with a degree in mechanical engineering, but before anything else, he went to serve his country. The Korean War had just reached a tenuous ceasefire, and America was locked in the global Cold War, so Dwight joined the Navy Civil Engineer Corps after eight weeks at U.S. Navy Officer Candidate School in Newport, Rhode Island. He and Jo-Ann got married, packed up everything they owned in a new Chevy, and drove to Port Hueneme in California, where they lived in a Quonset hut while Dwight served in the Seabees, the civil engineering corps.

“It was a great start for us,” Dwight said. “Experience as an officer in the Navy gives you the opportunity to do things as a 22-year-old kid that you wouldn't do otherwise. So, having a new wife, having a new kind of responsibility, I had enlisted men under me working – it was a quick way to mature.”

When his naval service ended, Dwight contacted a friend of his father, Harold Fee ’20, who directed the Stevens Alumni Association. Fee kept a book of letters from older Stevens graduates looking to recruit fellow alumni, including one from Hal Atkinson from the Class of 1919, who had married into a family of Spanish ex-patriates who owned sugar mills in Cuba.

“He said in his letter that he was looking for somebody who was willing to sit and add two and two for a few years, and watch some old men grow up and make room for him,” Dwight remembers. “And I felt compelled to accept that challenge.”

Dwight went to work for the Rionda Group, learning the sugar trade in their mills outside Havana. However, the communist Castro regime seized the mills in 1959. Back in New York, Dwight and three of his colleagues formed a marketing and human capital firm focused on the sugar industry.

“The four of us took that group and grew it to probably number one or two in the world of buying and selling sugar and sugar talent – putting talent together with need,” Dwight said. “It was exciting, it was stimulating. We just had the greatest career I could possibly ever have wanted.”

Dwight’s work took him to Europe, Africa, the Middle East and the Pacific Basin. Jo-Ann did more than just go along; while Dwight was at the office, or taking night classes to earn an MBA from NYU, she raised their daughter Laura and son Stewart.

In the late 1980s, Dwight retired from sugar and pivoted to wealth management. In the 2000s, he formed Massey Quick with his son and one of Stewart’s friends. The firm (now Massey Quick Simon) has grown to manage over $3 billion in assets.

Dwight eased into full retirement around 2010, and he and Jo-Ann have devoted their time to family, golf, live theater, travel and serving on various civic, church and college boards. Both have served on boards of Jo-Ann’s alma mater Lasell College, near Boston.

They’ve kept in touch with Stevens by supporting scholarships and hosting gatherings for alumni in Florida. Dwight was a trustee, and in 2014, he received the Distinguished Alumni Award for Business and Finance at the annual Stevens Awards Gala. And, Dwight and his old pal Jack Wilcox still talk often, carrying their families’ friendship past a century.

Dwight and Jo-Ann have passed their values onto their five adult grandsons. “We're a very close-knit family,” Jo-Ann said. “We've been fortunate because we've watched these boys mature into men. We went to every baseball game, every graduation, kindergarten through college, for all five of them. We haven't missed a bit. So that's kept us busy.”

“We don't lead a boring life,” Dwight added. “We never have.”

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