AEB Profile Matthews
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Steve Matthews AEB Profile

Graduation Date

1971

Major/minor

I double majored in English and American Studies. I crafted the American Studies major on my own. Hiram encouraged students to design inter-disciplinary majors, but you had to write a mission statement and identify courses that would support your proposed field of inquiry/study and then present your major proposal to a committee of three faculty in order to be approved. It worked, and it made my studies much richer and more connected.

Where are you from?

I was born in West Virginia, in the Eastern panhandle. My family had lived there since the late 1700’s. I moved in junior high to Falls Church, VA., a suburb of Washington D.C. and lived there when I attended Hiram.

Where do you currently live?

            Middleburg, Virginia. The unofficial capital of Virginia horse country and the official center of the Middleburg American Viticultural Area for wine producers. My favorite local wines are Cabernet Franc and the true Virginia grape, Norton which has a great history.

3 words to describe yourself?

Intrinsic, inquisitive and jovial.

What is the most interesting thing about you?

I have a small antique business in the valley of Virginia, at the Great Strasburg Antiques Emporium. I’ve had it for fourteen years, and it is a really fun business to have because I get to learn about and temporarily own wonderful examples of American craftsmanship in pottery and glassware. I also get to meet lots of wonderfully peculiar, intensely interesting people who I can swap information with.

How did you find Hiram?

I have a small antique business in the valley of Virginia, at the Great Strasburg Antiques Emporium. I’ve had it for fourteen years, and it is a really fun business to have because I get to learn about and temporarily own wonderful examples of American craftsmanship in pottery and glassware. I also get to meet lots of wonderfully peculiar, intensely interesting people who I can swap information with.

What clubs were you involved in?

I worked on the Lantern and the Advance. I was not in a social club which were dominant at the time, but I practiced my GDI, “gosh dang independence” so I could go to many of the socials because I was not committed to just one. I spent a lot of time at The Cell, a coffee house in the basement of Whitcomb. It was the 60s, so it had a hippie, artsy vibe and an anti-establishment feel to it. I was on The Cell Board, so we tried to keep it vital with poetry readings, music and events.

I volunteered at the Hattie Larlham Home, a place that aids children with severe developmental disabilities. We would go once a week just to talk or play with the kids or just to hold their hands. It was touching yet at times depressing, but it was a very vital and rewarding thing to do. It made me realize that I had a responsibility to develop and share my knowledge and abilities. I also belonged to the Student Religious Liberals. Hiram was never an oppressive place but we felt the need to identify a group where people of any belief or creed could discuss their religious concerns and challenges.

Your favorite Hiram traditions?

Sugar Day, everyone did it. The Phi Kap/Kappa Da Bowery was really fun. It was a themed dance/ social event modeled on the infamous New York City street with its multiple bars and reputation for “fun” and lawlessness. The ICC Sing was a big deal. All the social clubs competed for the prize with varying results. But, I worked hard and was not a serial partier, but I loved doing things with my friends which were low keyed and usually involved food, drink and often was out-of-doors. The natural beauty of

Hiram is both real and mythical at this same time.

Favorite professor?

Hiram had such wonderful professors. I read a lot and was egg-heady, and I really discovered my own intellectual self because the professors were, to my amazement, committed to their discipline and excited that I loved it too. They knew how to catapult your interests to the next level.

Professor Charles McKinley, an English Professor, I loved him, he was so great. I took his seminar semester on Joyce’s Ulysses. Reading this at nineteen years old was not easy, but it was one of the most profound, complex and amazing works of literature ever written. Professor McKinley was so generous with his knowledge; he loved what he was teaching so much that he wanted to share it with you. It was a profound experience to learn with him and to go through the process with him.

Professor John Shaw was a superb Shakespeare scholar and teacher. I thought I knew Shakespeare, but I found out how much I didn’t know—it was astoundingly compelling, and a true epiphany for me intellectually. He showed his students how to make connections, draw lines here and there to create a new site map for their minds. He taught Shakespeare with a depth of knowledge and a passion for his subject.

Professor Sandy Parker was my English advisor. She opened the door for me to modern women writers and Latin American fiction. I still read the fiction of Mario Vargos Llosa and Carlos Fuentes and have gone on to Garcia Marquez and Allende. I was totally engaged and her style and broad knowledge made me want to learn and commit myself to develop a completed understanding.

What is your favorite location on campus?

I lived in the suburbs of DC where everything I needed was nearby so it was a very different experience when I moved to rural Ohio. I especially loved the Garfield House, and since I loved to walk and jog, both the 6 mile square and the 3 mile square offered great natural scenery and the opportunity to enjoy solitude or a laid back experience with friends.

What is your favorite Hiram memory?

A profound memory from Hiram was the events of the Kent State shooting on May 4, 1970. I was not a radical by any stretch of the imagination, but when 4 students were killed and 9 wounded by the National Guard in the guise of being protectors of peace,(3 of the students were shot in the back), outrage ruled the day. Hiram stepped up and together, the students, professors and administration looked at it as a learning experience to try to understand this horrible tragedy and the turmoil in our country and what positive action we could take. Students voted on what actions they would take, and the administration supported their active voices in writing letters, having teach-ins, speeches and even a brief strike. The students voted to strike. Hiram supported the students and even a number of Kent State students who were ejected from their campus and came to stay at Hiram until they could make their way home. Maybe it was because of the time in my life that this happened or maybe because it was so violent and visceral, but it was a palpable moment of lost innocence for me.

What is the most important thing that you learned from Hiram?

How to be a good friend. The people you meet at Hiram change your life, you become so close to them and they care deeply about you. I have some friends that I still keep in really close touch with. I have valued them my whole life, and they have been instrumental in the way my life has developed. But even those who have drifted away from one still bring back fond memories or our times together on “The Hill.”

Do you feel that Hiram prepared you for your future?

Absolutely, and it prepared me for the other two degrees I received as well. Hiram made me ready to take on the next challenge, I knew that I wanted to teach and I loved the library. While a student, I worked in the library at Hiram to buy my books; the librarians there were really knowledgeable and committed and affected my choice to follow a career in libraries.

What is your current employment? Retired? What are you doing now?

When I graduated, I worked in a public library in upstate Pennsylvania, then another in Virginia before deciding to return to school. I received a Master of Arts, Library Science in ’73 from the University of Michigan (Ann Arbor) and a Master of Arts in Teaching English from Connecticut College. I wanted to be in an educational community to teach while running a library. I was hired at a girls boarding school, Foxcroft School, and have just retired two years ago. It was a great match for me because I loved working with teens. They are honest and open and looking for the key ideas and connections that will drive their lives. I was committed to making their library the intellectual (and often the social) center of the community. I was able as an English Teacher to share my own literary discoveries and help students to connect to some of the best works ever written.

What do you enjoy in your spare time?

In my spare time, I read a lot!  After all I am a school librarian and English teacher- long standing. I have served on two American Library Association committees to choose the best non-fiction book Published for YA’s (2006) and the best YA novel of the year with the most literary merit.  I also spend a lot of time finding and buying antiques and collectibles for my shop, now including books in my inventory. I serve on the Board of the Loudoun Library Foundation, which works to raise money for the libraries of Loudoun County Virginia.  We had our annual book sale in late June, and it was the most successful ever, bringing in $94,000.

Last fall, I was a member of an accreditation team to evaluate the MLS Program at the University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee. I have served on the committee in the American Library Association which oversees accreditation of the 61 MLS Programs, and have enjoyed helping to strengthen Library/Information graduate education.

My newest endeavor is beginning as an English Language tutor for the Loudoun Literacy Council. The Council works with immigrants and others who want to improve their English language skills both speaking and reading. I will finish my training in a few weeks and will then start tutoring.

What brought you back to Hiram and why the Alumni Executive Board (AEB)?

Serendipity and my need to nurture the things in my life that truly matter. I always donate to Hiram and have for a long time because it is important to me. It has been my way of demonstrating that I think that small colleges and Hiram in particular are places where we begin to find ourselves as we develop our real strength and true passions. Small liberal arts colleges have a difficult but essential role in higher education. I feel compelled now to spread the word and help keep alumni aware that Hiram continues to deliver on the promise it made to each of us, so we need to become contributors to the eternal reinvention of the Hiram experience, I have lots of experience working at a private school, and we were always raising money because we have to, it is all so expensive. One day, I saw the Hiram Hi email saying to apply and I thought, I should do that. I would love to work more actively to connect back with the other alumni, those I know and those I have never met, and be a present tense part of Hiram’s future. This is so essential and it is a good time to step forward and offer help to this place I love.

 

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