By Allen M. Junek ’18
In the face of renewed emphasis on STEM subjects, are the humanities and social sciences still valuable disciplines? For Pamela R. Matthews ’81, dean of the College of Liberal Arts at Texas A&M University, the answer is a resounding “yes.”
“A liberal arts education transforms bright young minds into well-rounded and innovative leaders who tackle complex global issues, including race and gender inequality, immigration, and foreign policy,” Matthews said. “Equipped with the skills to think critically, communicate effectively, and adapt swiftly, Liberal Arts graduates leave Texas A&M prepared for success in a broad range of careers.”
That’s why Matthews and her husband, Dennis Berthold, personally invested $104,000 in Liberal Arts students and faculty with the Pamela R. Matthews First in Family Endowed Scholarship and the Dr. Dennis Berthold Innovations in Teaching Endowment.
Matthews’ dedication to the liberal arts goes beyond her role as dean. She has been involved with the College of Liberal Arts for more than 25 years in both teaching and administrative positions and has seen firsthand the incredible impact of a broad liberal arts experience.
“Education isn’t just about what you put in your head,” she said. “It’s about developing a whole person.”
With this in mind, Matthews is targeting three major areas for fundraising efforts in the university-wide capital campaign Lead By Example: transformational teaching and learning; trailblazing research; and meaningful civic and global engagement and outreach. However, she and Berthold wanted to personally set an example for others who are passionate about the value and importance of a liberal arts education by endowing their two gifts.
SUPPORT FOR FIRST-GENERATION STUDENTS
During her time in leadership positions across campus, Matthews developed a drive for helping first-generation students succeed both academically and professionally. As the college’s associate dean for undergraduate programs, she was directly involved with the college’s Regents’ Scholars. The university-wide initiative provides needs-based scholarships of up to $5,000 per year to about 600 students at Texas A&M who are the first in their family to go to college.
Liberal Arts goes one step further and enrolls all Regents’ Scholars in the college in a dedicated yearlong class that teaches them the skills and resources necessary for academic success and provides a community of support. Matthews taught one of these classes each year for four years and discovered that first-generation students are sometimes overwhelmed when they get to college.
Providing these students with academically rigorous challenges and other resources to help them succeed, Matthews believes, produces students with the knowledge and confidence to be leaders in society when they graduate.
“You want to educate people so they can be engaged citizens who will vote, who will improve their communities, and who will serve—first-generation students do that,” she said. “Education increases the chance that people will think critically and act responsibly. It gives them the tools they need.”
INSPIRING INNOVATIVE TEACHING
Like Matthews, Berthold has a long history of dedication to the liberal arts at Texas A&M. He taught English at Texas A&M for 42 years and is now retired. He always strived to be an innovative educator who aimed to break from the traditional “sage on the stage” lecturing method of teaching. He also helped develop a number of new courses at the university, some of which are still being offered today.
“Teaching is important,” he said. “It’s not a static methodology. You have to think about who you are teaching and how they change over time.”
For him, the seed of philanthropy was planted decades ago during the early part of his career at Texas A&M. After just five years as a professor, he was honored with a Distinguished Achievement Award for Teaching from the Association of Former Students.
“I just felt so grateful that the former students would create that kind of an award for teaching that I thought right then and there, ‘Someday I’m going to give back,’” he said.
He was recognized several more times as an instructor, including a second Distinguished Achievement Teaching Award in 2005 and a University Professorship for Undergraduate Teaching Excellence in 2012. This award, made possible by generous donors, recognizes faculty who have demonstrated uncommon devotion to the education of undergraduate students and was also the catalyst for his recent gift to Liberal Arts.
Berthold hopes his endowment will encourage instructors to think of new and creative ways to present material, as well as inspire them to pay it forward as he has done. Both he and Matthews strongly believe in the power and value of a liberal arts education and the need to give back for the betterment of future generations.
“I want to live in a world where we help create the kind of people we want to be in the world,” Matthews said. “I hope others will join me in supporting the College of Liberal Arts as our faculty and students transform the world and create a better future for us all.”
These endowments are part of the Lead by Example campaign at Texas A&M. Learn more about how to support the College of Liberal Arts at the college’s website.
For questions and information about endowments, please contact Senior Director of Development Larry J. Walker II at firstname.lastname@example.org or 979.458.1304.