Grad savors all things Rowan

Grad savors all things Rowan

Kathleen M. Matteo's romance with what is now Rowan University began 54 years ago.

She was a freshman from Brooklyn, N.Y., and Rowan was Glassboro State Teachers College, an institution of several hundred students in a picturesque patch of South Jersey then better known for peaches than pedagogy.

"There were nothing but fields," recalls Matteo, who commuted to school from her family's Gloucester Township summer home in a ? Ford coupe with fold-down rear seats.

"All of our classes were in Bunce Hall. Even the bookstore was inside Bunce Hall. I remember the smoking rooms, one for the girls, one for the guys. I didn't smoke, but you did not leave here without learning to play pinochle."

Besides honing her card skills, Matteo earned a degree. And she developed a lifelong commitment to an institution since transformed, physically and otherwise, into a respected university of nearly 10,000 students.

An elegant yet down-to-earth educator and businesswoman, Matteo has served on the university board of trustees since 1996 (the last four as chairwoman) and is utterly involved in all things Rowan.

"I just love the school," Matteo says.

No wonder: If it weren't for Rowan, she wouldn't have met her husband, George W. Matteo Sr. They have six sons -- George Jr., Joseph, Mark, Christopher, Gregory and John -- and eight grandchildren. A great-grandchild is on the way.

She and her husband live in Gloucester Township.

Matteo, who has taught public school and Catholic catechism classes and served on her local school board, loves to talk about her family. And Rowan.

"I'm the first female and first alum to be the chair of the board," Matteo says. "I've enjoyed it tremendously. It's been wonderful."

It seems hard for Matteo to talk about Rowan without using superlatives. Which come in handy when she speaks at graduations and convocations, or talks up the university to potential students and others.

"She definitely brings a lot of energy and love for the institution to the board," says Nick Petroni, a certified public accountant from Glassboro who's been a Rowan trustee for three years. "She attends every single committee meeting and every single function."

Says new board chairman Ronald J. Ianoale, a Newark attorney who served with Matteo as vice chairman for four years: "Aside from her family, I don't believe that (she) loves anything more than Rowan University . . . The entire university community is indebted to her service and generosity."

While at Glassboro, Matteo worked for the student newspaper, The Whit, as well as the yearbook, which she co-edited..

"All our classes were on this side of 322," she says, a reference to the highway that divides the older and newer halves of the campus. "The other side was all peach orchards."

The explosive growth of the enrollment and the campus, and the evolution of a state teachers' college into a respected university, have not transformed Matteo's feelings for the institution.

"I've been involved in so many of the changes that have gone on," she notes.

"Today, when you say Rowan University, people know it immediately."

There's more growth to come, she notes, citing the expansion of the satellite campus in Camden and the proposal for a new technology center near the confluence of routes 55 and 322.

"It's marvelous," Matteo says. "I love the idea of that."

I ask Matteo, who plans to continue her involvement in Rowan affairs, what she'd most like to convey about her alma mater.

"Rowan is a very special place," she declares. "You can take from it so much. It's not as small as it was when I was here, and maybe the times aren't the same. But it still is a very special place."

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Date Published: Friday, October 13, 2006 - 01:00
Source URL: Courier-Post