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In memoriam: Hesburgh Trustee Donald J. Matthews

Donald J. Matthews, a longtime member of the University of Notre Dame’s Board of Trustees, died Tuesday (June 6) in Los Angeles. He was 89.

Donald J. Matthews, a longtime member of the University of Notre Dame’s Board of Trustees, died Tuesday (June 6) in Los Angeles. He was 89.

“We are deeply grateful for Don’s generous and faithful service as a Trustee,” Notre Dame’s president, Rev. John I. Jenkins, C.S.C., said. “His love for Notre Dame and his dedication to the University’s distinctive mission were evident. We join his family in grieving his passing and give thanks for his extraordinary life.”

After graduating from Notre Dame with a bachelor’s degree in business, Matthews joined in management of his family’s maritime transport business. He went on to take a position as an account executive in the casualty department of Johnson & Higgins, the largest privately held insurance brokerage and benefit consulting firm in the world.

Matthews ascended through the management ranks at the company, becoming a vice president in 1975, then executive vice president and president of the firm’s Texas operations. He returned to the New York office of Johnson & Higgins in 1982 after being named senior vice president for the newly established financial institution division. After retiring from Johnson & Higgins, he co-founded and served as president of American Capital Access Holdings, a financial guarantee insurance company.

Matthews was elected to Notre Dame’s Board in 1971 after previously serving on the advisory council for the College of Engineering. As a Trustee, he served on the Audit, University Relations/Public Affairs and Student Affairs Committees. He was elected to emeritus status in 2004 and was named a Hesburgh Trustee in 2019. 

A gift from Matthews in 1967 established Notre Dame’s first endowed professorship, the John N. Matthews Chair in Law, named in honor of Matthews’ father, a former ship’s master and founder of the family’s maritime cargo company.

Not surprisingly, given his father’s passion for the sea, Matthews was an accomplished sailor who served on the crew of two America’s Cup yachts — Vim, which narrowly lost out in races to select the New York Yacht Club’s defender in 1958, and Weatherly, which won the America’s Cup in 1962. 

In addition to his service to Notre Dame, Matthews was active in numerous other organizations, including as president of the maritime group the National Association of Stevedores, Mercy College and the Guiding Eyes for the Blind.

Matthews is survived by his wife, Ann Bowers, and children, Therese Matthews; Kathryn “Kim” Matthews, a 1981 Notre Dame alumna; Brian Matthews, a 1983 alumnus; and Sharon Matthews.

Arrangements are pending.    

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