Letter to the Editor

Advisor and student advocate gone too soon


Jason Matthews was a big man with an even bigger heart! He left us too soon leaving a big hole in all of our hearts

But in Big J’s too short life he made a big, big difference in the lives of thousands of MATC students.

Students were drawn to Jason because he cared about them and their lives. He was someone they could trust, that they could talk to, who listened and understood them.

Laura Gomez spoke for many when she wrote,” I can’t stop the tears! He has been there for me for so long. He never gave up on me even when I had given up on myself! I love you Jason

Jason was a gentle giant, self-confident and committed to his life’s purpose.

“You were the one that encouraged me to finish school,” wrote his colleague Cynthia Walker. “You pushed me to never stop reaching my goal. You told me that my baby was an inspiration. Because of you, I never stopped until I worked alongside of you at MATC. I appreciate you encouraging me to never give up when I wanted to give up. Thank you for encouraging me and many others that have cross your path.”

Jason Matthews was a model for all of us who worked for MATC. Students always came first for Jason!

Lately, when my phone rang, and his name flashed on the screen, I could be sure that he was calling to get the FAST Fund to help one of his students pay their rent, keep a roof over their heads, pay a back debt so they could remain enrolled, or buy them the textbooks they needed.

Jason hated bureaucracy and ignored the bureaucrats and their rules when they were obstacles to student success. Just a few months ago he spoke for many at the college when he wrote,” Many organizations seek re-organization and only end up with disorganization.”

Unlike many who are always looking for a new, more prestigious title, whose goal is to rise up in bureaucracy, Jason wasn’t concerned about that. His commitment and life passion was MATC’s students, not personal advancement!

Jason’s sense of purpose and self-confidence made it impossible for people in authority to bully or intimidate him.

Many times, over many years, supervisors would tell him that it was unprofessional to stand in the hallway talking to students, despite the fact that talking to and counseling students WERE his jobs. They wanted him secluded in his office, waiting for students to come to him, to wear a suit and tie. They even called him into HR and threatened to write him up.

But Jason always knew which side he was on. The second floor outside Multicultural Affairs was his office. He told me more than once, “If that’s where the students are, that’s where I need to be. “

For these same reasons, Jason was active with MATC’s faculty and professional staff union, Local 212. He served on the 212 Executive Board, and always walked the walk: marching with 212 on Labor Day, supporting 212 endorsed candidates, or calling BS when the administration did idiotic things.

For example, when an MATC President tried to close Multicultural Affairs where Jason worked, the Adult High School and the Early Childhood Development Learning Labs, Jason didn’t flinch. He didn’t care what the bean counters said.  Jason spoke truth to power and played a pivotal role in saving these institutions that are so important to our students and the community!

Big J’s activism in the community stretched beyond Sixth and State. After his football playing days at Winona State ended, he continued his involvement in the game by coaching young people in the Neighborhood Children’s Sports League with his MATC colleague, Robbie Reddick. This is also why he was a founding member of the Men of Color.

Jason wasn’t all business, though: he knew how to have a good time. I can still see the big man sitting in his big truck outside my house, a twinkle in his eye, a huge smile on his face during my ScotchFest party a few years ago.

He loved music, especially Prince, and he sang with the Heritage Chorale. Gregory Townsend, who was in the choir and sat close to him, recalled that Jason kept things light in rehearsals no matter how intense or demanding the director could be.  He was a big man with a bigger spirit who sang in falsetto.

Valerie Vernon remembered that J had a wonderful tenor voice and an amazing range. One day when rehearsing a piece that included a soprano solo and the soprano was unavailable, Jason sang her part so surprisingly well that they had him sing it in the concert.

Jason was a good man, a man of principle who fought for his students and for others with a smile on his face and love in his heart. He posted on Facebook, “I learned that it is the weak who are cruel, and that gentleness is to be expected only from the strong.”

MATC faculty, staff and especially the students he loved so dearly will miss him more than words can express.

I mentioned that Jason loved Prince. When Prince passed Jason posted these words which seem eerily appropriate for Jason Matthews passing:


It is raining purple, now

And all the doves cry

There’s a beret on the ground

A red Corvette goes by

We should start a party like its 1999

To celebrate the prince

And the soul he leaves behind