12/7/2010 - Man Behind the Camera: VP a cheerleader for Perry County
By Elizabeth Tucker
Judson students know him affectionately as "Mr. Bill"-the man with the suit and the camera. He's seen frequently in the halls of Judson College and in the Marion community where his job involves promotion and publicity.
"I always liked photography," Bill Mathews said, "but I really got into it when the digital camera came into vogue. I attended an MMI reunion with a new digital camera a few years ago, took hundreds of pictures and haven't stopped."
Mathew's photos end up in Judson College press releases, on the college webpage and also on his Facebook page.
Mathews began work in the development office at Judson in 2008 and more recently became Vice President and General Counsel. His work includes representing the school at various functions, including a recent interview on WAKA TV in Montgomery that featured the new nursing program at Judson, offering legal advice, taking photos at events and working with the Alabama Women's Hall of Fame.
Promoting Judson College and the city of Marion isn't anything new. Mathews says he's been a Perry County cheerleader since high school.
"My high school in Birmingham was overcrowded and going to a split system in order to handle the number of students," Mathews explained. "So my parents and I began to look at other alternatives. Marion Military Institute was one of them. I told them I wanted to go to MMI where I could carry a rifle, wear fatigues and ‘play war' in the woods!"
Mathews spent his high school years at MMI and then decided to remain for his associate's degree. He then transferred to Birmingham Southern and earned his BA in English. His ROTC training at MMI prepared him for service in the U.S. Army. He was commissioned as a second lieutenant, served for three years in the Military Police Corps in Goeppingen, Germany and was discharged as a captain.
Following Army service, Mathews enrolled in 1967 at Vanderbilt Law School. After graduation he worked at the firm of Lang, Simpson, Robinson and Summerville for thirty years. He then began work at Samford University as Vice President for Business Affairs and General Counsel for seven years.
Mathews participated in Perry County projects while at Samford since the school has a long-standing relationship with Marion. He assisted in Samford's Perry County diabetes and hypertension clinics and mentorship programs for residents with diabetes. The annual Old Howard Bike Ride was also begun six years ago and Mathews has been the standard-bearer every year.
"I loved Perry County the first time I saw it," Mathews said. "I love the town of Marion, the woods, the lakes and the Cahaba River. This is a beautiful part of God's creation."
Mathews was shocked to hear that MMI was considering relocating to Anniston in the late ‘90s.
"I thought the world was coming apart," he said. "I believed the Marion community couldn't afford for MMI to move."
He volunteered to serve on a local committee to combat the proposed move.
"MMI and Judson share so much and I believed both schools would suffer with this proposed move," Mathews said. "We decided to do all we could to keep and promote the school."
The majority of MMI's trustees voted to move the school, but the measure required a two-thirds majority and fell short by one vote. The MMI president and seven trustees resigned two months after the vote in June, 1999.
Mathew said he retired from Samford "for one day"-joking "I tried it and didn't like it!"--and enjoys working at Judson. He said he was an "admirer" of the school as an MMI cadet and he continues to admire the school.
"It's a special place," he said. "Something is always going on at Judson, and students tend to be very independent and motivated."
Mathew's longtime attachment in Marion and Perry County is not limited to his job at Judson or his education at MMI. He owns a house in Marion, is a member of Siloam Baptist Church and serves on the boards of the Perry County Historical and Preservation Society, Sowing Seeds of Hope, Perry County Center for Economic Development and the President's Advisory Council of MMI. He also collaborated with Eleanor Drake in her new book, "Images of America: Perry County."
Mathews and his wife, Melinda, are parents of a son, Joe Bill, who lives in North Carolina and a daughter, Melanie, who lives in Denver. They have one grandson.
Mathews said that Marion has a rich history that has contributed immeasurably to the lives of students in three schools: Judson, MMI and Samford, and giving back to the community has become a significant part of his life.
*Article courtesy of the Judson College Public Relations Department.