Hands-On Educator Supports the Next Generation of Kinesthetic Learners

Photo: Jim Russell ’83

For Curtiss Matterson ’54, it all started with a soap box derby— crafting a wooden race car, no longer than 6 feet, nor wider than 3 feet. “I loved working with my hands and building things,” Matterson said. On his first trip to SUNY Oswego, he met with a group of GIs who were students in the industrial arts program, and he said, “I went gaga.”

With the $50 in his pocket from his job at a heating company, he paid the fees to enroll in SUNY Oswego. “I loved it there,” said the Psi Phi Gamma brother, who can still rattle off his lengthy “given” fraternity name and sing a few Psi Phi songs. “Oswego has played a very important part in my life.”

For a few years after graduation, Matterson taught elementary industrial arts in Rochester, N.Y., where he created hands-on learning projects to complement the classroom teacher’s lessons. For example, when the fourth-graders learned about the Native Americans who lived on the Great Plains, he developed a project for the students to make their own teepees and clay pots. “I tried to create projects that enhanced learning,” he said.

He moved from teaching to a position with the New York State Teachers Association, which took him to 48 U.S. states and even overseas. Eventually, he founded his own association management company, Matterson and Associates. His wife, Liz, and his two daughters joined him in the business. Over the next 25 years, he helped numerous state and national organizations fulfill their missions of advocacy and education. Daughter Deborah followed in his footsteps and now serves as the chief executive officer of the Irrigation Association in Fairfax, Va.

Throughout his retirement, Matterson has been an active Reunion volunteer and has encouraged Oswego alumni to connect with and support their alma mater. He teamed up with classmates to fund the Class of 1954 Scholarship, and most recently, he and Liz established the Curtiss B. ’54 and Elizabeth V. Matterson Scholarship, which supports a first-year student with financial need majoring in technology education, technology management or vocational teacher preparation.

“It’s a small payback for what I got out of my Oswego education,” he said. “My Oswego experience has done well for me all my life. It gave me the leadership I needed and guidelines to take advantage of the opportunities that opened up to me.”

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