Alabama Academy of Honor


Forrest David Matthews

The following biographical sketch was compiled at the time of induction into the Academy in 1973, updated October 2002.



Dr. Forrest David Mathews, at 33, became the youngest President ever to serve The University of Alabama. A native of Grove Hill, Clarke County, he is the son of the late Mr. and Mrs. F. L. Mathews and is married to the former Mary Chapman, also a Grove Hill native. They have two children, Lee Ann (Mrs. Roland Hester III) and Lucy McLeod (Mrs. Peter Heegaard, Jr.).

He did his undergraduate work at The University of Alabama where he took an A. B. Degree in history and classical Greek in 1958. He received a master's degree in education from the university in 1959 and took his doctoral degree in the history of American education from Columbia University in 1965.

After a stint as an officer with the 3rd Infantry Division at Fort Benning, Ga., he came to the university in 1960 as a counselor and director of men's activities. He taught history and philosophy of education while attending Columbia University in pursuit of his Ph.D. Returning to the university in 1965, he became interim dean of men and a lecturer in the university's history department and in 1966 an executive assistant to Dr. Frank Rose. He served in that capacity until he was named executive vice-president for the Tuscaloosa campus.

He served as chairman of a subcommittee of the Alabama Education Study Commission, charged with studying cooperation between private and public institutions. He is a member of the Alabama Education Association's Legislative Committee and holds a number of posts in various educational organizations.

He was one of our recipients of the Alabama Jaycee "Outstanding Young Men" awards in 1968.

Dr. Mathews has recieved numerous awards including a citation as one of the Ten Most Outstanding Young Men in the nation (1969); the Nicholas Murray Butler Medal in Silver from Columbia University (1976); Educator of the Year from the Alabama Conference of Black Mayors (1977); and the "Brotherhood Award" from the National Conference of Christians and Jews (1979). He is the recipient of 16 honorary degrees.

Dr. Mathews is the president and chief executive officer of the Kettering Foundation. Before coming to the foundation in 1981, Dr. Mathews served as U.S. Secretary of Health, Education, and Welfare in the Ford administration. From 1969 to 1980, he was president of The University of Alabama, where he also taught history for 15 years.