Some of the things Marc Mathews truly enjoys about his work — the contracts, the number crunching — might not seem terribly exciting.
But the things his fiscal leadership helped make possible at Transylvania University are exciting. Not only is the school doing well financially, but take a walk around the residential side of campus and you’ll see a recently constructed Campus Center and three new residence halls. These are just a few of the many improvements the university has seen since he started 11 years ago as vice president for finance and business.
Planning to retire this spring, Mathews reflected on his time at Transylvania, which actually began back in 1976.
“Forty-four years ago I came to campus as a student, and I’ve never not been in love with this place,” he said.
Mathews graduated in 1980 with an accounting degree and then earned his master’s in the field before serving in a variety of roles for almost 30 years — from municipal finance management to treasurer at the University of Kentucky.
The CPA was at UK when his current position opened up, and both he and his wife, Gwen, a 1988 graduate, thought it’d be a great opportunity. “We decided this was much more my passion,” he said.
Mathews believes a chief financial officer has more of an opportunity to make an impact at a smaller institution. For instance, he’s gotten to interact with students at Transylvania, something he didn’t really have a chance to do at UK. He’s taught auditing courses as well.
His duties include overseeing a wide range of campus operations, including facilities management, the Department of Public Safety and human resources.
The facilities are the most striking change at Transylvania in the past decade. Besides the Campus Center and residence halls, projects have included the construction of the Transylvania Athletics Complex, the complete renovation of Hall Field for softball and the transformation of the old Haupt Humanities into the new Carpenter Center, a state-of-the-art academic building in the heart of campus.
“The facilities just weren’t meeting the expectations of today’s students,” Mathews said — i.e. they at times made students feel like they were in an old high school, as opposed to an inviting space more conducive to learning and personal growth.
Looking to the future, Mathews said he’d love to see enrollment increase by 200 or more students, which would provide additional financial flexibility. However, he stressed the university is in a good position financially, mentioning the strong endowment and condition of the physical plant.
President Brien Lewis said, “Marc’s leadership, hard work and years of dedication to Transylvania have helped us deliver the best possible college experience for our students — while at the same time keeping the university in sound financial shape.”
Part of what motivates Mathews is he wants to give back to an institution that has contributed so much to his life. “I am as enthusiastic about Transylvania as I was 44 years ago,” said Mathews, who plans to stay engaged with his alma mater after retirement.
Outside of Transylvania, he serves as independent board chair for the locally founded Dupree Mutual Funds and has been active in community organizations like LexArts, the United Way, the International Book Project and Volunteer Center of the Bluegrass. Additionally, he has served as national treasurer of Omicron Delta Kappa National Leadership Honorary.
Mathews recently passed the real estate exam and is awaiting his license from the Kentucky Real Estate Commission. He plans to do financial work for his wife, a real estate agent.
“I am going to do a variety of things,” he said. “I’m ready to do nothing, too.”