WMU News

Gary Mathews earns Distinguished Service Award

Feb. 3, 2004

KALAMAZOO--A Western Michigan University social work professor with a long track record of service to the University community is the winner of WMU's 2003 Distinguished Service Award.

Dr. Gary Mathews, professor of social work and current president of the WMU chapter of the American Association of University Professors, will receive the award during Academic Convocation ceremonies at 3:30 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 5, in the Dalton Center Recital Hall.

A longtime advocate for initiatives promoting wellness on campus and a respected member of a wide range of campus committees, Mathews was chosen for the award from campuswide nominations. Selection is based on such criteria as: service through innovative and effective programs; service in areas that contribute to the growth and stature of the University; and service that extends the impact and presence of the University into the larger community. He will receive a plaque and a $1,500 honorarium and will have $2,000 added to his base salary in 2004-05.

A number of letters of support for his nomination pointed to Mathews' tireless work on behalf of the health of the University community, noting in particular his work in the 1970s and 1980s to turn the University into a smoke-free environment.

I became a fan of Gary Matthews the first time I met him," wrote one colleague. "Untenured and vulnerable, Gary became a visible champion for a smoke-free campus...Gary is fearless when he knows his cause is just."

Another supporter noted that "almost 20 years later, it is difficult for our younger colleagues to imagine that a smoke-free policy could be considered innovative...Western's policy was ready to be in place in 1986, when the Michigan Legislature restricted smoking in all governmental buildings...and other universities in Michigan and throughout the Midwest looked to Western as a model for their policies."

The diversity and breadth of his service to WMU was another factor for which supporters lauded Mathews. He has served on more than two dozen committees and organizations that span the academic enterprise. Mathews has been a volunteer or appointee on such committees as the Medallion Scholar election committee, the Faculty Senate Committee to Oversee General Education, the President's Task Force on Instructional Technology and the College of Health and Human Services' Grade and Program Dismissal Review Committee. Mathews, who is currently serving his second term as AAUP president, also has served since 1998 as the AAUP contract administrator. In addition, he is the chairperson of the WMU Athletic Board, and he has served as a presidential appointee on campuswide committees examining sports sponsorship and gender equity in athletics.

However, if one looked only at his list of accomplishments to gauge his dedication and service to the University, wrote another colleague, the real reason for his nomination for the service award might be missed.

"It is his quiet confidence, his listening ear, his strong work ethic and his words of wisdom that are not found on a Curriculum Vitae," the supporter wrote. "...Unless you have sat on a committee with him, you will not understand his ability to quietly listen to comments, and then build consensus and move a group on. Unless you've seen him work in a stressful environment, you will never know how he is able to deflate tense moments and build relationships."

Mathew was also praised for extending the impact and presence of the University in the larger community through his scholarly activities, which include the acceptance of his work in more than 20 peer-reviewed or juried publications as well as some two dozen professional presentations and consultations.

A faculty member at WMU since 1976, Mathews earned a bachelor's degree from the University of Cincinnati in 1966 and a master's degree in social work from Wayne State University in 1968. He earned his doctorate in sociology from WMU in 1989.

Media contact: Cheryl Roland, 269 387-8400, cheryl.roland@wmich.edu

WMU News
Office of University Relations
Western Michigan University
1903 W Michigan Ave
Kalamazoo MI 49008-5433 USA
269 387-8400