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January 11, 2001

OBITUARY: Jack Matthews

Jack Matthews's professional credits at Pitt were impressive: professor and chairperson of the speech department from 1955 until his retirement in 1987; co-founder of the Cleft Palate Cranio-Facial Center, acting dean of the humanities division, 1967 to 1968; University Senate president, 1969 to 1972.

But in remembering Matthews, who died on Dec. 18, 2000, friends and colleagues preferred to describe him in more human terms: Renaissance man, mediator, teacher, leader.

"He was a magnificent human being," said Betty Jane McWilliams, professor emerita of communication disorders and a longtime colleague. "He was such a caring person in addition to being an outstanding leader."

"Jack was a perennial, persistent, ubiquitous scholar," said Robert Perloff, professor emeritus of business and psychology. "During the 1980s, when I gave a seminar on program evaluation, he enrolled as a student. He was always interested in keeping up as a scholar."

Matthews, of Verona, died of complications following surgery while vacationing in Florida. He was 83.

McWilliams called Matthews "a great mediator" both as Senate president and in resolving conflicts between the Pitt administration and students during the turbulent 1960s. Matthews was a liberal who opposed the Vietnam War, but he also opposed violence and "helped to keep a lid on campus unrest," McWilliams said.

While sailing on the spring 1983 voyage of the Pitt-sponsored Semester at Sea (SAS) program, Matthews stepped forward to stave off another potential disaster. When the voyage's academic dean died of heart failure, Matthews agreed to serve as acting dean and helped to salvage the voyage academically.

"A lot of people looked up to Jack," said James Mauch, an emeritus professor of education and himself a former University Senate president. "He was a gentleman and a very conscientious citizen of this University."

Matthews and Mauch co-authored a 1990 book, "The Emeritus Professor," which argued that universities should take better advantage of the talents of their retired faculty.

Matthews came to Pitt as a post-doctoral student in 1948. He was appointed as an assistant professor in the psychology department in 1950 and became chairperson of what was then the Department of Speech and Theatre Arts in 1955.

Matthews earned a bachelor's degree from Heidelberg College in Tiffin, Ohio, in 1938. He earned a master of arts degree from Ohio University in 1940, and a Ph.D. in speech and psychology from Ohio State in 1946. Matthews also did graduate work at Vanderbilt and Purdue before coming to Pitt.

He is survived by his wife, Hannah; a sister, Janet Rosenberg of Shaker Heights, Ohio; two daughters, Rachel Matthews of Austin, Texas, and France, and Rebecca Matthews of Newton, Mass.; and two granddaughters.

A memorial service at Pitt will be held at a time to be announced.

Contributions can be made to the Southern Poverty Law Center, P.O. Box 548, Montgomery, Ala. 36177-9624.

Filed under: Feature,Volume 33 Issue 9

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