Mathews marks 45 years at SMC helmPublished 10:09am Wednesday, December 9, 2009
Southwestern Michigan College Board of Trustees awarded a pin for 45 years of service to Chairman Dr. Fred L. Mathews during its regularly scheduled meeting on Tuesday, Dec. 8, on the Dowagiac campus.
Beginning in the early 1960s, Mathews became the leading voice for citizens who believed in the dream of a college for the community.
In 1964, SMC was established by a public referendum and the first college Board of Trustees was elected.
Mathews was one of the six individuals initially elected to the position of college trustee.
He has been re-elected as trustee every six years since 1964.
Shortly after first being elected to SMC’s governing board, fellow trustees elected Mathews to the position of board chairman.
He has been re-elected as chairman by his fellow trustees every two years since.
In addition to his tireless efforts in the original campaign to establish the college, and his work over the past 45 years to guide the college, Mathews has an unparalleled legacy of community service.
Some of his accomplishments include being one of the founders of the Community State Bank of Dowagiac (now Huntington Bank), being one of the founders of the Michigan Community College Association (MCCA), serving as its president in 1971-72.
Mathews has been a member of the MCCA Board of Directors since its founding and chaired the committee on legislation for about 25 years.
He also served on the Board of Directors of the national Association of Community College Trustees for several years.
He received that organization’s award as the nation’s most outstanding trustee in 1976.
Mathews has served county government for approximately 40 years.
He was an original member of the reorganized and expanded Cass County Planning and Economic Development Commission where he served for 18 years.
Also, he is a founding board member of the Cass County Transportation Authority and has served on that board now for about 22 years.
He chaired the Dowagiac Downtown Development Authority for 10 years during which time the restoration and renovation of the downtown became a reality.
Mathews is a former Dowagiac Elks Citizen of the Year and has received the State of Michigan Head Start Helping Hand Award.
He has been the recipient of an official proclamation of appreciation by the Dowagiac City Council.
Mathews was one of the founders of the Dowagiac Lions Club and served as one of its early presidents.
He is a member of Dowagiac Rotary Club and is a Paul Harris Fellow.
He served as chairman of the committee which built Rotary Villa, a senior citizen housing complex in Dowagiac.
Mathews has served as president of the non-profit Dowagiac Rotary Villa Corp., which has operated Rotary Villa since its beginning.
Mathews was one of the founders of the Greater Dowagiac Association (now Chamber of Commerce) and served as one of its early presidents in 1957.
He served on the Board of Directors for several years and as president of SWM, a non-profit emergency medical system serving most of the lower peninsula of Michigan.
He has served for several years on the Board of Directors and is treasurer of the Berrien, Cass, Van Buren Michigan Works!.
He recently was very active in the Lee Memorial Hospital Foundation’s Campaign About Life, which raised $2 million toward the remodeling and expansion of Borgess-Lee Memorial Hospital’s Emergency Department.
Mathews chaired the Special Gifts Committee for that project.
Mathews practiced optometry in Dowagiac for 56 years, from 1952-2008, holding the highest level of licensure the law provides, including treatment of eye diseases.
Mathews has been married to his wife, Thelda, for 56 years.
They have two sons – Scott, chief operating officer for The Cobalt Group in Seattle, a high tech software company serving the automobile industry; and David, president of Southwestern Michigan College.
They have five grandchildren and are expecting another in March.
According to Mathews, “Over the past 45 years, Southwestern Michigan College has grown and developed beyond most everyone’s expectations.
“More than 12,000 SMC students have received associate degrees or certificates. Additionally, thousands more have taken classes for personal enrichment and improvement and job training and retraining.
“In order to meet the needs of the community, SMC has grown into a truly comprehensive community college. The college has become known for its outstanding level of student success, both at the college and by our graduates after they transfer as measured by the National Community College Benchmarking Project.
“The college’s current initiative to expand student life activities to include on-campus housing has been tremendously successful. The second residence hall is progressing ahead of schedule and will open with the beginning of classes next fall.
“SMC’s campus is today one of the nation’s most beautiful campuses and is an academically superior institution.
“The great success SMC has demonstrated is due to a very competent, dedicated, experienced and stable Board of Trustees few colleges can equal.
“This, coupled with an excellent administrative staff, teaching faculty and support staff of superior individuals insures that the future of Southwestern Michigan College is indeed bright. It has been a privilege and honor to represent and to continue to represent the citizen owners of Southwestern Michigan College on its Board of Trustees,” Mathews said.