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It is almost impossible to capture in words, and more so in only a few
words, the enormous influence that Dr. Victor J. Matthews has had on
my life, both personally and professionally. Victor Matthews was a
teacher by profession and by nature. Teacher was not a mask he wore in
front of the classroom and took off in his office or on the track. To
him teaching was not a necessary evil that sustained his research: to
Victor teaching was the point of research. To some in our field his
priorities may seem skewed, but I think to leave behind even one or
two students who feel as exceptionally blessed, as I do, to have sat
at his feet far out-weighs a multitude of scholarly tomes. If you were
taught by him, you truly knew him. And if you were taught by him, you
truly came to know yourself. He had very high standards, and these
standards kept getting higher as we approached them. But although the
bar was always just out of reach, he would always fill us with a
desire to attain the unattainable. For a student, I think there is no
greater experience than this; for it is to be taught by a true
teacher, one who both sees your potential as limitless and has the
ability to make you see it for yourself. I am very very proud to say
that I was taught by Victor Matthews, but I am embarrassed that I
cannot find a way to express the appropriate degree of gratitude. I
can only hope that now, as I am about to embark on my own career as a
teacher of Classics, that I can be a good steward of the legacy I have
received from my teacher, Dr. Victor J. Matthews.
Jackie Murray, PhD candidate,
Classics, University of Washington, Seattle WA; Assistant
Professor, Hebrew, Greek, and Roman Classics, Temple University,
Dave Scott-Thomas has this to say about Vic, “His moral sense was very strong - something that meant a lot to me in the world of sport. He did things for the simple effort of trying to get better at them and to push himself and the people around him to fire up their passion to excel. Vic was a strong influencer and a shoulder for me to lean on. I'll miss his support and his presence at our events; I'll miss a kind and generous man."
Victor's patience was endless, even with those, like myself, with no obvious natural skills. He paid attention to anyone who would show up at track, recording their times, tracking their progress, quietly encouraging them. He deeply respected those who worked hard, no matter what their natural speed. Everything he did was quiet, but he was always there, even in the worst weather, where there might be only one runner, he would be there, stopwatch, clipboard, maybe an umbrella. He was a modest man, with great depth of patience, determination and intelligence.
Victor gave us so much time. He was never paid for what he did, but if anyone asked for any help, he would spend extra hours at the track, taking them through special workouts that he had designed for them. So many times in races, I would be closing on the halfway point, already starting to come apart, and there around the corner, by the side of the road, would be Victor, with his stopwatch, calling out my split, encouraging me to go after the runner in front of me. He was always there for me. I can't imagine running without him.
To Victor - You were the ultimate Mentor and Friend - someone we literally ran circles to be around! In your quiet way you motivated us and inspired us to achieve our very best. You taught us that in running - as in life - there was never a bad race - that each experience was a lesson learned to improve upon for the next time. Hard work and dedication made us better athletes - but your reassuring advice, your encouragement to do the best that we can do helped make us better human beings.
I will miss you and all the joy and meaning you have brought to my running - as a young varsity athlete under your tutelage 22 years, to more recent times in our community running group. It will be very difficult, but our group will persevere and run on - in the company of your good friend Usher - buoyed by the memories you have left us with. Today we are extremely saddened by our loss, but stand - both as better athletes and as better individuals - for everything that you brought into our lives. I - for one - as one of your former varsity charges and as a neighbor - am a stronger, happier person for having known you. Your Irish Eyes will forever smile in our hearts.
If God has taken Victor from us, He must have needed an anchor for his relay team. Nobody could get past that guy.
Overheard at the visitation
Just some personal thoughts on Victor I would like to share..............
So many of us run as well as we do because of Victor, particularly those like myself who come to track with no running plan and an over abundance of uncontrollable energy.. I always thought of him as an Olympic light to guide us, more so now. He gave shape to our running and on a personal level has given me a deeper appreciation of my youth. He has left us under sad circumstances, paradoxically having crossed the finish line before us. However I think he should be remembered like the legends and gods he taught about-mythical and enigmatic. He coached us in riddles or as the Greeks would say; ainissesthai " to speak in riddles." He was also brief when he spoke and I never new exactly where I stood, except maybe I should step it up a notch-and I say these things with the kindest of reflection. Usher you were and will remain the perfect foil for Victor. Some one has to hold the watch and say go while Victor records furiously. How on earth he remembers all those times and splits was out of this world. Whenever I see you Usher I will think of Victor, you were inseparable. I feel for you and his wife Irene. I only knew Victor for the shortest of time and feel honored that my name has been recorded in his book of runners. Victor, I hope you are able to take those names with you wherever you are, and know that whenever we run, there is a part of us doing it better than before because of you.................
Victor was a quiet man. To hear him speak, you had to lean in close, and I never heard him raise his voice. It used to make me wonder how he had managed to coach a large team of University runners. This is one of the stories. At his first meeting with his new team, he would take them out on a run on the local roads. After a couple of miles he would lead them into the hills, and this small, quiet, older runner would leave them all behind. At the next meeting, he would have their full attention. When I first heard this, it seemed to speak of a sort of arrogance.
There is a second part to the story. Victor coached and worked with these runners over the years. As they became better runners, they would try to pass him in local races. This was famously difficult to do; Victor would surge again and again, and he would not be easily beaten. Many of them did go on to pass him, all of them went on to be the best that they could be, some of them went on to be the elite of the running world.
I was wrong, it was not arrogance of any kind. Victor set a standard, and then showed you how to reach it with hard work and patience and then how to surpass it. In his quiet and determined way, he showed us how to be the best that we can be. Victor did this without ever raising his voice.
It is so very, very sad. Victor was such a mentor and inspiration to so many of us.
He was the guy who really got me into running in a serious way, and certainly the fellow who introduced me to race organizing [Carol Vaughan at the Red Cross asked Vic to help organize the Billy Taylor Jog-a-long, and Vic asked me to help him].
I know we all have so many happy memories of Vic, and of the many runs together where we were peppered not only with advice and encouragement, but also with Vic's encyclopaedic knowledge of the sport.
For those that ran at St. James High School track on Tuesday and Thursday evenings in Guelph, Ontario no doubt you came to know Vic. Unfortunately Vic has passed away. I for one along with many others have had the good fortune to have met Vic at the track on several occasions. Vic was a great man and will be missed by many. May Vic's legend run on.
Cheers, Scott Cameron