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Distinguished Alumni Achievement Awards 2009

Dr. Charles R. Matthews
Master of Public Administration 1999
Texas State University System

Dr, Charles R. Matthews
Dr. Charles R. Matthews


Remarks by Dr. Ann Marie Ellis
Dean, College of Liberal Arts

Dr. Charles Matthews has dedicated his life to pubic service—as director and president of a large municipal power agency, as mayor of Garland, TX, as a Texas Railroad Commissioner, and currently as Chancellor of the Texas State University System.  These high-profile positions highlight Dr. Matthews' superb leadership skills and his interest in the public good.

Dr. Matthews grew up in Waco, Texas, the oldest of four children.  He received his Bachelor of Arts degree from the University of Texas at Dallas, and several years ago  he was named an outstanding alumnus from that university.

He spent most of his business career—30 years—as an entrepreneur in Garland.  Among other business interests, he was involved in banking, he was president of a mortgage company, and he developed commercial real estate.

In Garland, Charles met the love of his life, Julia. They have been married almost 44 years, and they have four adult children and six grandchildren.  Julia is a skilled pilot, and Charles says that she has made much of his career possible: she has flown him in their plane to most parts of the United States and many times to Mexico for his speaking engagements.

Their youngest child, Jenny (here with us tonight), has two degrees from Texas State, and is finishing her doctorate at the UT-Austin.

Charles’ career is fascinating.  He was a businessman in Garland when friends on the City Council asked him to help the City out of a tight spot.  Garland had joined three other cities to form the Texas Municipal Power Agency and to construct a coal-fired power station to supply electricity to all four cities.  The project was in trouble, and they wanted Charles to use his business skills to either make the project viable or get the city out of the partnership. 

For the next four years, Charles worked full time as an unpaid volunteer—as president and board member—to oversee the construction of the plant, the construction of a short-line railroad, a three thousand-acre cooling lake, and transmission lines to connect the four cities.  In 1983, the plant was finished, on time and within the original budget.  That power station is still considered one of the lowest-cost providers of electricity in Texas. The savings to citizens of the four cities is in millions of dollars.

Shortly after completing the plant, Charles was recruited to run for Mayor of Garland, running against the incumbent mayor in an exciting race that drew the largest voter turnout in Garland’s 100-year history.  And, he won.  During his time as mayor, he received recognition as the person most responsible for the construction of what is now known as the George Bush Tollway, located in North Dallas.  After his term as mayor, Governor Clements appointed Charles to the Texas Turnpike Authority where his colleagues elected him vice chairman of the Board three times and chair of its finance committee.   

In 1994, Charles was asked to run for the Texas Railroad Commission because of his extensive background in energy issues.  He ran against a person who had held public office for forty-four years and defeated him in what was considered the upset election of the year.  He ran for re-election in 2000 and was re-elected with the highest number of votes of any commissioner in history.  During his time on the Commission, he worked to increase the energy trade with Mexico, and for three different years he led the largest trade delegations Texas ever sent to Mexico.

During the time Charles served as Chairman of the Railroad Commission, he became certified as a Public Manager in Texas State University’s William P. Hobby Center for Public Service.  Then, with encouragement from the Center’s director, Dr. Howard Balanoff, Charles enrolled in Texas State’s master’s degree program in Public Administration and graduated in a record 23 months. 

Now you remember how I told you about Julia being a pilot. Well, Charles performed quite a feat being chair of the RR Commission and being a graduate student. I am told by the director of our MPA program, Pat Shields, that some days Julia would have to fly Charles to different cities—sometimes as many as 5—to hold press conferences.  And then she’d have to fly him back for class. His work schedule never caused him to miss class, and he was always on time. What great teamwork!

Several years after receiving his MPA degree, Charles was admitted to the doctoral program in higher education administration at the University of Texas at Austin, and he is currently the only Chancellor in Texas who holds the Ed.D. degree.

Dr. Matthews became Chancellor of the Texas State University System in 2005.  In that position, he oversees eight colleges and universities that have a combined enrollment of 70,000 students, employ over 16,000 faculty and staff, and have an annual operating budget of over $800 million. He says in his work, he is blessed with excellent presidents and a very smart staff.  As you know, the Legislature is now in session, so Charles is working long hours, meeting with legislators to argue for more appropriations for the System institutions.  He is especially focused on “Closing the Gap” in Texas, so that ordinary kids can get a college education.

In 2005, Dr. Matthews was named a Distinguished Alumnus of Texas State, in recognition of his long history of public involvement.  He believes he gained his interest in public service from his mother, Jerry, a pioneer in advocating for special education in Texas public schools, who  helped establish the Texas agency for Mental Health and Mental Retardation.  Dr. Matthews’s career as a public servant shows how deeply he inherited his mother’s spirit.  His work has been recognized with many awards, including the Alfred M. Zuck Public Courage Award from the National Associations of Schools of Public Affairs and Administration. That award was given in recognition of his work with Texas school boards to protect schools and children from pipeline dangers. 

The College of Liberal Arts is very proud of Chancellor Matthews and grateful to him for the values that he models for Texas and for our students.  I am pleased to present him with the College’s highest honor, the Distinguished Alumni Achievement Award.