At the beginning of the month, Wittenberg lost a member of the family. Dr. Roland Matthies, who passed on April 3 after a brief illness, was born on June 1, 1910 in Hammond, Indiana, where his first job was delivering groceries in a horse-drawn cart.
“He goes from the horse-drawn vehicle era, pre-radio, pre-commercial aviation, pre-television (to today),” Richard Matthies, his son, told The Springfield News Sun. “The things that he lived through in his 103 years are quite remarkable from a change perspective.”
Matthies graduated from Hammond High School in 1928, and from DePauw University in 1931. During his years at DePauw, he was head of his ROTC unit, and was awarded the position of 2nd Lieutenant in the army upon graduation. Matthies continued his education at The University of Chicago law school, receiving his Juris Doctorate in 1934. He married his wife Maxine in 1937, and he practiced law in Indiana for nine years. He was brought to Wittenberg in 1943 to become Business Manager for the new U.S. Army Air Cadet Training Program, and quickly climbed the ranks, holding the seat as University Treasurer in 1945, and finally the Office of Vice President of the University in 1954.
“Roland Matthies was one of the most distinguished-looking gentlemen I’ve ever met,” said Thomas Taylor, professor of history. “He worked here from the 1940s to the 1970s under several Presidents. He had a strong business mind and was devoted to lay service in the Lutheran Church.”
Over the course of his years at the university, Matthies raised millions of dollars for Wittenberg’s Endowment Fund, and continued until his retirement in 1975. During his retirement, he served on the Board of Trustees until 1988, among the other countless committees and boards in Springfield of which he held a seat. Matthies and his late wife Maxine created their first fund at the Springfield Foundation in 1996, to help inspire and empower those seeking education.
According to his obituary he “was a founding member in 1946 of the Springfield Symphony Orchestra where he played violin. In his earlier years he was an accomplished singer, having sung bass in the acclaimed Swift and Company Male Chorus and the East Chicago Male chorus. He was a committed philanthropist financially supporting many local charities.”
Taylor reflected his first meeting with Matthies. “He was still singing a bit (bass) at First Lutheran Church in Springfield when I met him in 1988. Retired Professor of Mathematics Will Hahn was singing tenor there, too. His demeanor made a strong impression through his life. I interviewed him in his mid- to late-90’s, and his mind remained sharp into his 100s.
“He gave extensively of his time and money to his church, the Heritage Center, and to local philanthropy in the decades after his retirement. He and his wife Maxine were much loved at our church.”
The Matthies Honors House on Alumni Way is named for Edith B. and Frank C. Matthies, cousins of Roland Matthies.