Larraine Matusak Oral History Interview


Part one

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SCARPINO: Today is March 3, 2016. My name is Philip Scarpino, Professor of History at Indiana University—Purdue University Indianapolis (IUPUI); and, Director of Oral History for the Tobias Center for the Study of Leadership Excellence, also at IUPUI. I am interviewing Dr. Larraine Matusak, at her home in Sun City, Arizona, which is a suburb of Phoenix. This interview is a joint venture undertaken by the Tobias Center and the International Leadership Association.

We will include a more detailed biographical summary with the transcript of this interview; for now I will provide an abbreviated overview of Dr. Matusak’s career.

Larraine Matusak has had a long career as a practitioner, promoter, funder, and scholar of leadership.

She earned her PhD in higher education administration from the Fielding Institute, Santa Barbara, California, in 1975.

An important component of her career consisted of a series of positions that allowed her to break new ground in higher education.

1968–1974, she taught Natural Sciences and developed the Adult Alternative Baccalaureate Degree Program to address the needs of underserved students at the University of Minnesota.

1974–1979, she served as the first Dean and founder of the College of Alternative Programs at the University of Evansville, in Evansville, Indiana, focused on adult learning and continuing education.

1979–1982, she was the second president of Thomas A. Edison State College of New Jersey, an innovative institution dedicated to serving mid-career adults.

1982–1996, she was recruited for and accepted an executive positon at the W.K. Kellogg Foundation in Battle Creek, Michigan. She served as a program officer and leadership scholar. She directed and augmented the Kellogg National Fellowship Program; she was responsible for all grant making in the area of leadership; and she served as the foundation’s the first Leadership Scholar.

She was both the founder and funder of the Kellogg Leadership Scholars Program (KLSP), which brought together scholars and practitioners of leadership. She played a pivotal role in funding the process that produced the International Leadership Association.

1996–2010, she served as a Senior Scholar at the James MacGregor Burns Academy of Leadership and as a trustee of the International Leadership Association.

She was President of the consulting firm, LARCON Associates, which she started in about 1996.

Dr. Matusak was one of the original board members of the Council for Adult Experiential Learning (CAEL), which was founded in 1974.

She is the author or editor of several publications, among the most significant of which is Finding Your Voice: Learning to Lead . . . Anywhere You Want to Make a Difference (1996).

She has earned numerous awards and recognitions including, in 1996, the International Morris T. Keeton Award which recognized her contributions in adult learning and leadership, presented by the Council for Adult Experiential Learning, which she helped to create.

In 2006, she was inducted into the International Adult Continuing Education Hall of Fame.

She has received several honorary degrees including Marietta College, Central Michigan University, University of Southern Indiana, and Union Institute and University.

And, of course, she is the recipient of a lifetime achievement award from the International Leadership Association.

So, with all that as background, I would like to ask your permission to record this interview, to transcribe the interview, to deposit the recording and the transcription in the IUPUI Special Collections and Archives where they may be used by patrons which might include posting all or part of the recording and transcription to the website of the IUPUI Special Collections and Archives.

And also to deposit the recording and transcription with the International Leadership Association and the Tobias Center where they may also be used by patrons and with the understanding that all or part may be posted to those organizations’ websites.

So, can I have your permission to do all that?

MATUSAK: Yes, you certainly have.

SCARPINO: So as I said when we had the recorder off, I’m going to start by explaining for the sake of anyone using this interview that I’m going to ask a few basic questions about your childhood just to get some demographic information in the record.

I am going to follow those basic questions by asking you some in-depth questions about your youth and young adulthood, aimed at providing users of this interview insight into the big-picture question: Who is Larraine Matusak?

After that I have some broad questions for you and then when we are done with those questions, we are going to work our way more or less chronologically through your career, with plenty of discussion about leadership.

I’m going to point out that part of the fun of doing this is that we can have a plan, but we don’t always end up where the plan says we’re going. So we’ll see how this turns out.

So, let’s start with the basic demographic questions. When and where were you born?

MATUSAK: I was born in Chicago, July 22, 1930.

SCARPINO: Where did you grow up?

MATUSAK: Chicago.

SCARPINO: Any particular part of Chicago?

MATUSAK: Southwest side. I was a back-of-the-yards kid. I was a poor kid who didn’t know I was poor.

SCARPINO: That’s probably a good thing. Did you have any brothers and sisters?

MATUSAK: One sister, and she died in 1979.

SCARPINO: And her name was?


SCARPINO: Who were your parents?

MATUSAK: My parents were Rose and Ted; Ted Matusak, and my dad worked at Armour’s. I still have a scale that he had from Armour’s; I put plants on it. We hang it up in the summertime. My mother worked part-time but mostly she was at home raising the kids.

SCARPINO: So, my first question is kind of a fishing question. It’s like throwing the net in the water to see what comes back when you pull it into the boat. So it requires a little bit of a setup.

In October of 2011, I interviewed Manfred Kets De Vries at the ILA Meeting in London. In getting ready for that, I read an article that he published titled “The Leadership Mystique,” and I was really struck by something that he said in that article. I’m going to read a couple of lines for the benefit of the users and for you. This is what he said: “All of us possess some kind of inner theater and are strongly motivated by a specific inner script. Over time, through interactions with caretakers, teachers, and other influential people, this inner theater develops. Our inner theater, in which the patterns that underlie our character come into play, influences our behavior throughout our lives and plays an essential role in the molding of leaders.”

So, here’s the question. If we use Kets De Vries’ term, the “inner theater,” can you tell me about your “inner theater,” about activities or events that happened when you were young that influenced the person and the leader that you became?

MATUSAK: Yeah, I sure can. The one that I probably want to stress is, we had a little cottage and it was always known as the “Matusak Oasis” in the neighborhood because everything was two-story homes, flats, as they were called, but we had a little cottage in the back and a huge garden. But every day when I came home from school, I loved to study; I was an excellent student and I loved to study. The house was always full of women when I came home and my mother had this group together and blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, and I couldn’t study and it made me very upset. So I said to my dad one day, “Dad, why does she do this?” Both of my parents had—I don’t know about my dad, but my mother had only an eighth grade education. And he said “Larraine, your mother believes that God gave everybody a gift and they don’t even bother to open it and use it, and she’s helping them find their gifts.” Well, it didn’t mean a lot me then, but it meant more and more as I grew and matured and became a professional. And what she was was a community organizer without a title. She was always the one who was, “Mrs. So-and-So is sick; you bring the soup, you wash the curtains, you go to the grocery store,” etc., and that care of people, loving people, and finding out what’s the reality of each person and what they have to offer I think came from that. It started there and it grew. That was the seed.

SCARPINO: What about your dad?

MATUSAK: My dad was Mr. Silent; wonderful, patient, enduring. My mother had a hot temper. My dad would go for a long walk when she had a temper fit, and when he’d come home, he’d throw in his hat and say “Is it safe now?” and we’d all laugh.

SCARPINO: So, opposites attracted in that case.

MATUSAK: That’s right, that’s right. I would spend many hours sitting on the yard swing—remember the old yard swings where you have two seats that face each other?—with my dad, never saying a whole lot, but when I made my plans to enter the convent, that’s where I broke the news, on the swing.

SCARPINO: Matusak—Eastern European?



MATUSAK: Well, my dad, I believe was Czech; my mother was Slovak. So, Czechoslovakia.

SCARPINO: Were they first generation?

MATUSAK: My dad came from Europe when he was about three years old and then went back again. My mother never was in Europe. She was born in Joliet, Illinois.

SCARPINO: So, your father worked for Armour, you grew up in basically an Eastern European neighborhood, and mostly Catholic?

MATUSAK: Yes. Absolutely.

SCARPINO: What was it like growing up in that neighborhood? What do you remember about that?

MATUSAK: I remember that it was like one big family. We were just talking about that the other day. The neighborhoods, you knew everybody and everybody knew you. If I did something I wasn’t supposed to do three blocks away from home, when I got home, they knew it and I got it.

SCARPINO: I had that experience.

MATUSAK: You did?

SCARPINO: Yes, I did.

MATUSAK: You could walk anywhere, there wasn’t any fear, we all played outside and in fact, around Eastertime, which is now of course, but during Holy Week, we could walk to nine or ten churches in a short time because you had the Slovak church, the Czech church, the Polish church, the Russian church was two blocks away, the Irish church. You walked to the churches and made your visits and it was kind of a novena. Carrying your Easter baskets was the biggest thing. It was who had the most beautiful cover on the Easter basket. It was a lovely neighborhood and it was a fun place to grow up.

SCARPINO: So each of the European groups had their own Catholic church?

MATUSAK: Yes, yes.

SCARPINO: Have any of them survived, do you know?

MATUSAK: You know, I don’t think any of them except the Irish church, St. Basil’s on Garfield Boulevard, still exist. The others exist, but I don’t know if there’s any membership or anything. It’s been so long—the last time I was back there, I went to visit my aunt and the neighborhood was in shambles. You have to say reality, I don’t care if it’s recorded, but the southern blacks had moved in and in fact, I’ll say this, you’re talking about a plan that gets interjected, this is getting interjected. My aunt stayed in her home stubbornly like a great oak tree for 40 years and her sons were tired of pulling bullets out of the doorway. Her neighbor mugged her twice. This is a woman with a quadruple bypass and then they killed her dog and threw it over the fence. So she came to live with me in Battle Creek for a whole year, but that was the hardest thing she ever had to do.

SCARPINO: To move from the old neighborhood.

MATUSAK: Yes, yeah.

SCARPINO: What kind of an impact did growing up in that Eastern European culture have on you as you became an adult?

MATUSAK: You know, I never learned the language, which is terrible. I understand it. I understand all the languages because my mother used say she spoke [inaudible], which meant “a little bit of everything” because she got along with everybody. And so I could understand what they were saying, but I resented it and so I refused to speak it. The cooking, the care for people, the fun, the dancing, the laughter, that was all part of the European. We’d close off the street and have a dance. I’d play my accordion, my uncle played the drums, and we had a party. It was fun.

SCARPINO: So, you grew up in a working class family.


SCARPINO: How did that shape your…

MATUSAK: I grew up in a working class family and I wanted to go a Catholic high school. I went to Catholic grade school. My parents could not afford to send me to a Catholic high school, but I found one that I could walk to, it was 14 blocks, but I could walk to school, and I decided I’m going to work. Now remember, this was war years. I was 13 years old, so I upswept my hair and I put makeup on and they were hiring everybody and anybody. So you name the place, and I worked there. I worked at Wrigley Spearmint, I worked at the meatpacking company, I worked at Goldblatt’s, I worked everywhere. And within a month or two they’d say, “Where’s your birth certificate? How old are you?” and I’d say, “I forgot it.” Then I’d get laid off.

SCARPINO: Did you have to go to confession for that one?

MATUSAK: Yes, and then I’d have to go get another job. That too, I think helped in the shaping of me. I knew what I didn’t want to do. The meatpacking plant, Phil, was a real shock to my little 13-year-old body because they put me at the top of a conveyer belt where the cans would—they were packing cans for Russia, meat. They would come down through the bin with roaches and everything else—the cans—and I’d have to pick up the hot cans, put them on the conveyer belt, and the women at the bottom were packing them and screaming at me because they got piecework. I got 52 cents an hour. I’d come home bloody and dirty and crying and tired. My mother and dad would say, “You can go to Lindblom High.” I said, “No, I won’t; I’m going to the Catholic high school.” And I did. I made it through the high school, paid my way the whole way, and learned a lot about people of all levels, knew what I didn’t want to do, and loved music. That was my first love, music, and went to St. Joseph’s High School.

SCARPINO: Goldblatt’s, what is that?

MATUSAK: Big huge department store.

SCARPINO: Well, that’s quite a range of activity; the packing house, the chewing gum manufacturer.

MATUSAK: And Salerno butter cookies. Wherever I could get a job, I got a job. One place that I loved was working for the—it was a place where they were developing the war bonds. I was very precise at what I did, and so they had me doing all of the so-called shearing of the war bonds. We would go up on the second floor and talk about technology and today, Phil, compared to then, you’re bringing back memories. They would have this whole line of pens on these metal things all the way across a room and these pens would sign the signatures on the war bonds. It was a fascinating job. I enjoyed it.

SCARPINO: And so your job was to take these big sheets of war bonds and then cut them up into the individual bonds.

MATUSAK: Right, right and precisely, precisely.

SCARPINO: Other than your parents, were there any other adults in the neighborhood that had an impact on shaping the person you became?

MATUSAK: Not in the neighborhood. Father Ambrose at the grade school—he was the assistant pastor—he had a great influence on me, and a couple of the nuns did. I remember that in my sixth grade, Sister Florence, I was carrying a red wagon from the library with all the books of poetry and Edgar Allan Poe, and Frost, etc. because she so inspired me to read and to really reach for something bigger. Yeah, the nuns did. And the nuns in the high school that I went to were a very, very great impression on me. My voice teacher had been a concert pianist across the world and she was remarkable. I had a PhD science teacher in high school, and she too was amazing, just absolutely amazing. So I think that the nuns and the priest had a great deal of influence on me.

SCARPINO: When you were growing up, I mean it was obvious that you were smart. You were willing to work hard, you were willing to do whatever it took to get a job done. What did you think a young woman who was smart and willing to work hard could be?

MATUSAK: Anything.

SCARPINO: You believed that?

MATUSAK: I really believed that I could do anything, yes, that I could go anyplace or do anything. And then what happened in high school, which was pretty remarkable I think, is that in my senior year, well, I had one of the leads in the play which was an opera instead of just the operetta. And then there was a contest that was put on by what was then known as the Civic Opera, which is now the Opera House in Chicago. Tony, who was my boyfriend but he was also a vocalist, we sang the Indian Love Song in the competition, and we won. We won. I don’t think I knew then what a great win that was, but my dad was very proud and so was my mother, and the offshoot of that was to sing with the Civic.

SCARPINO: So you had a chance to sing with them?

MATUSAK: Yes, yes. It was just an amazing opportunity and I was 18 and the whole world seemed to be my field, and I had a scholarship to Mundelein.

SCARPINO: Mundelein?


SCARPINO: Which is a…

MATUSAK: College. Catholic College in Chicago, in music. But again, go back to those nuns, there was one in particular, the Benedictine—look at the Benedictines and the Felicians. The Felicians taught me in high school and I admire them to this day, but there was something missing in them that I didn’t see that I saw in the Benedictines, which was the care of people, the real care of people, and to reach out beyond where they were to make a difference in peoples’ lives. There was a nun there that really, really was brilliant, this woman, as I knew more and more. Mathematics for her was like eating an apple. She was just brilliant; trigonometry, all of the math. But, she would take a break because she had to shovel coal to keep the furnace going, keep the kids warm. That really, really impressed me and so that’s when I made up my mind; what I was going to do was go someplace where I could really make a difference. I thought it through; I thought about marriage. I always wanted to have nine kids if I got married. I wanted a full baseball team! (Laughing) That was my thought then, you know. Because I’d get off the bus, 10 cents for a streetcar—it wasn’t a bus—and all the kids in the neighborhood would come running to me. I loved kids, I still do. I don’t like little kids now; now I love teenagers and I love teenagers who are not where they’re supposed to be, and I love working with them.

SCARPINO: I raised a few of those! (Laughing)

MATUSAK: I love working with them. They’re just so malleable and wonderful and you can really help make a difference. I’m going all over the board, but I’m trying to answer your question.

SCARPINO: No, that’s fine. I was actually going to ask you how you settled on the Benedictines, and it was the woman, the role model, and what they represented.

MATUSAK: That’s right, that’s right.

SCARPINO: You mentioned singing and you won the competition and you actually sang with the Chicago Lyric Opera. I understand from talking to some of your friends that you had the opportunity to be a part of the Chicago Lyric Opera when you graduated from high school. So, you turned that down to join the Benedictines.

MATUSAK: Yes I did, yes I did. And that was with spiritual direction. I really talked it through. I did the either/or, you know, do you or don’t you? Why? What’s the difference, etc.? I wanted to make a difference, and I felt I could make a difference by being a Benedictine.

SCARPINO: Did you give up singing completely?

MATUSAK: No. Except when I entered the convent, I’ll never ever forget that. There you are, you’re kind of nervous as a cat because you’re giving up everything and you’re leaving home now. My parents did not want me to go to the convent.

SCARPINO: Where was the convent?

MATUSAK: In Lisle, Illinois—L I S L E—it’s right near, what? Naperville.

SCARPINO: Okay, I know where Naperville is.

MATUSAK: There’s a big convent there still. The community has dwindled to probably 30 people. There were 200 then. But anyway, what did you ask me?

SCARPINO: I asked you just where the convent was.

MATUSAK: Okay. Anyway, there I was and the Reverend Mother met me to accept me. Her final words to me after all the warm greetings, etc., “Remember, you’re not a diva here.” (Laughing)

SCARPINO: So she knew you’d been a singer in the opera.

MATUSAK: Oh yeah, oh yeah, oh yeah. Those were her words. In the convent we had the Divine Office and singing several times a day, and yeah, I used my voice there. And then later on, after I had been a novitiate and then vows, etc., I played the organ for masses at churches and taught music in schools, etc.

SCARPINO: You also mentioned that you played the accordion as a teenager.

MATUSAK: Oh, yes.

SCARPINO: So where did you learn to play the organ?

MATUSAK: Well, I learned to play the organ in the convent. And the piano I learned as a kid. Here again, this will give you a little bit of my personality, I guess. The nun promised me—I think I was a fourth grader—that she would not put the telephone books on the piano seat for the recital. She would not do that to me. It was at St. Michael’s School where I went to school, and she put the phone books on that stool and I sat in it and my mother says I played like a hellion and I marched to the end of the stage and said “and now I quit.” And I refused to go for any more lessons.

SCARPINO: Well, she told you she wouldn’t put the books on the bench.

MATUSAK: That’s right.

SCARPINO: So, the next question I’m going to ask you, you already sort of brought it up. One of the sources that I read in getting ready for this interview was by Diane Dickey, called “Creative Native,” 2000, and she has that quote from your mother that “God has given everyone a gift and most people never take the time to open it.” So, what gift did God give you?

MATUSAK: That’s a hard one. But I think, first of all, I want to say He gave me intelligence, that’s the number one gift, but my second gift from God is the ability to bring people together, even people of very, very different persuasions. Sometimes I don’t know how I do it, but I get it done. Probably it’s patience, it’s loving, caring and hearing, listening; listening and hearing to what people are saying and show them that they are more alike than they are different. I think that’s a gift.

SCARPINO: Do you think that listening is a quality of an effective leader?

MATUSAK: Critical, critical. I think it’s the quality of an effective leader. I think it’s the quality of a good doctor, which they rarely do is listen.

SCARPINO: That’s true.

MATUSAK: Yeah, I believe it is critical. I think it’s critical in every position.

SCARPINO: So, what your mom said in this quote is that most people never take the time to open it, so how did you recognize the gifts?

MATUSAK: I think other people recognized them before I ever did. I would always be reaching out to help somebody, someplace, some group and realize that by what I was doing I was really making a difference and it was using the gifts that I had. And people would tell me, “You have a gift, you’re charismatic, you’re a listener, you’re a leader.” I was so busy doing it, I never bothered… what do they mean? What is leadership?—until I got to the foundation, that’s the first time. I never looked for a job. I was so blessed. I mean, I worked at the University of Minnesota after I left the Community. I was working on a degree. I had a grant at the University of Minnesota and was given a position of Assistant Professor. And then I got a phone call—because I was working with a group of students that I felt had high potential to succeed, but were being put into ticky tacky boxes by the university. Sorry, but that’s what we do in universities.

SCARPINO: That’s right. That’s exactly what we do.

MATUSAK: I started working with students and had them put their own boxes together, always being sure they got their English, and being sure they got their science, etc., but they would put together a package and, guess what? Kids who were failing were graduating. The College of Liberal Arts, we beat them with graduation rates because I put together that program, which was an alternative baccalaureate program, fighting for those kids who would have flunked out.

SCARPINO: And you were in the College of General Studies?


SCARPINO: I want to ask you one more question about singing before it gets away from me. It’s only tangentially related to singing. As a teenager, you had experience as a performer, right? Up on the stage, you had to do this. So, later on in your life, when you became a teacher and an executive at the Kellogg Foundation, did that ability to perform carry over into teaching and running meetings and facilitating?

MATUSAK: Oh yes, oh yes, very much so. I love a podium. I love a stage. I just relax and I love public speaking, which has been a great benefit for me as well, yeah.

SCARPINO: I’m going to ask you a few big picture questions related to leadership because the Tobias Center and the International Leadership Association want to hear about this. So, let’s just start with the big one; how do you define leadership?

MATUSAK: Well, you know, it’s very simple. For me, leadership is getting good things done with the help of others. And you don’t do it yourself, because if you think you can lead all by yourself, look around, nobody’s behind you, you’re not leading. You’re leading yourself into a pit. But that to me is very simple leadership. So, if you can wave a baton and get a group of six, ten, twenty, forty people to move toward doing something good, that’s leadership. You don’t have to do it yourself.

SCARPINO: When did you figure out that that was leadership?

MATUSAK: You know, as I said, I never thought about it. I was too busy doing it until I got to the Kellogg Foundation. There, the Executive Director, Russ Mawby at the time, had a leadership program in place that he was going to abolish because it just wasn’t successful. Three groups had been selected, they all still had years to go, but they were floundering. I didn’t know that when I first took the job.

SCARPINO: (Laughing) That’s the stuff you find out after you take the job.

MATUSAK: Exactly, exactly, exactly. But then I realized that even the word leadership was negative to these groups. They hated it. They thought they were just getting money to do what they wanted to do, because no one had any direction for that program. So I sat down and started working with it and designed a whole different approach to it and took it to Russ Mawby and his first response was “No,” because he had designed the first one. But his first response was no, and so we went on and on and we argued a bit and finally I said to him, “Okay, you’re the boss, but I’m the expert, so what do we do?” And nobody had ever said anything like that to him before I don’t think. And he said, “Well, one, two, three,” and I said, “Okay, fine, we can do that.” And we began. He didn’t accept that we needed a CCL or that we needed an Outward Bound.


MATUSAK: Center for Creative Leadership. Because you know, Phil, the one thing that I was finding is that people do not know themselves. They don’t know what their gift is, as my mother said, but they just don’t know themselves. I’ll give you an example. One of the women that we had on the Advisory Committee who became a Fellow, they have to go through what the Fellows go through, we sent them to CCL. She was a Vice President at Johnson and Johnson.

SCARPINO: I talked to her.

MATUSAK: Yeah. And after she saw herself on the video, she said, like this—you’d have to know Rita—“Oh, my God! Now I know why all the guys get so mad at me at meetings!” A professional—so all these Fellows we had who were in their 30s who thought they were God’s gift to mankind had no idea how, who they really were and how they came across. And it was a constant revelation. I can go at one after the other of people who—the Native American who is now at the Kellogg Foundation going up the mountain on Outward Bound and she was stuck and then suddenly everybody is cheering her on from both ends and she’s “I’m not going to put up with a drunken husband anymore!” And she went up that hill and saying everything she had to do and realized she could do it! And she’s an exec at the foundation now.

SCARPINO: We’re going to talk about Kellogg in considerable detail, but because you’ve mentioned it a couple of times, Outward Bound is a sort of boot camp-like challenging outdoor experience for people to sort of push them to their limits kind of thing.

MATUSAK: Exactly, exactly.

SCARPINO: And that was a part of your—you worked with Outward Bound.

MATUSAK: Right. Well, we worked with Outward Bound to give us a week for the Fellows. The Fellowship Program, each Fellow had to attend two seminars a year for three years, and they had to develop a learning plan, and that plan was a leadership learning plan. It could be in anything they wanted, but it could not be in the discipline in which they were trained, if they had a discipline. And it brought some amazing results.

SCARPINO: Do you think of yourself as a leader at this point in your life?

MATUSAK: You know, I do and I don’t. Yeah, I do—I mean it hit me really hard in Barcelona that when I told them I had read their book—have you read what I wrote, what I said at Barcelona?

SCARPINO: Yeah, Carol sent it to me in October or whenever that was, yeah.

MATUSAK: Okay, yeah, well, I said to them “I read half of your book, Leadership 2050, and none of you are addressing the problems of leadership today.” And I told them what the three problems were. I got a standing ovation from over a thousand people.

SCARPINO: Why don’t we put that in the record? What did you tell them the three problems were?

MATUSAK: Okay. Well, the number one that I said was greed. You think about China, and you think about Russia, and what’s going on in the world, that’s greed. If we don’t face greed in some way and understand the interdependence of all of us on everybody and everything, that’s not leadership. Secondly, the second thing I said was anger and hatred. There’s more anger and hatred in this world than I want to face every day. Turn on the TV; it’s awful. And third, take this as a broad definition now—is ignorance—because ignorance evolves into very, very protectiveness of myself and it ends up as arrogance. We have a perfect example of that in our presidential race. It’s ignorance, it’s all of the above. So those three things, in my mind—what we’re having so much taking over our leadership programs is management, and we have enough management organizations. I don’t want to teach people how to run a meeting. I don’t want to teach people how to become an executive. They have to learn to lead and you can lead on every level, and we’re not doing that.

SCARPINO: So, what do you think your signature qualities are as a leader?

MATUSAK: Signature qualities?

SCARPINO: What makes you stand out? I know that’s hard, it’s self-reflection, but that’s what you did to all those Fellows. (Laughing)

MATUSAK: It is. I know. Well, as I said, my signature quality probably is the ability to listen and then to bring together what I’ve listened to and make people realize you’re more alike than you’re different. I’ve been told that a thousand times, that I have that ability. We’ll sit at a meeting, ILA meeting, and listen all around the table. You’ve got to be listening. And then I’ll say something and they’ll say, “Well yeah, yeah, that’s more clear.” “Well, I just repeated what all of you said, but put it together in a different way.” Yeah, I guess listening, but not just listening; it’s listening and then able to pull out the heart of the issues and put them together.

SCARPINO: As you were talking, something kind of popped into my head and I’m going to see where we go with this. When you entered the convent, one of the terms that sometimes gets used for organizations of nuns is a cloister, right?


SCARPINO: And the implication of that, and I don’t mean this in any pejorative way at all, is inward-looking, you know, isolated from the world. You spent 19 years as a sister. How did you come out of that experience with the ability to listen and pull people together and put points on the horizon for them to march toward?

MATUSAK: Well, first of all, I wasn’t in a cloister. It was the Benedictine Community. So therefore, I was 22 years old and I was building a school in Texas.

SCARPINO: San Antonio?

MATUSAK: No, Fort Worth. White Settlement to be exact. When I say that, that’s the other thing that you learn in a convent—you can do anything because God will help you. So there was nothing I couldn’t do. And did I ever build a school before? Hell no! And I discovered the realities of it, but I did it and was successful with it. That’s why I said I was leading and I didn’t know I was leading because I was doing it, but being the principal of a school in Cicero, Illinois, where the pastor was absolutely hopeless, and making that a successful school, being a Benedictine means reaching out to the people. Being in Texas where you walk the street with the habit and kids were screaming, “Mommy, Mommy, witches, witches!” because you were in black. But it was not a cloistered existence. I learned a great deal about how to—I also use one word—manipulate—to get what I wanted. There’s a way to get what you wanted.

SCARPINO: Well, if you’re going to build a school and you don’t know how to do it, you’ve got to manipulate something.

MATUSAK: Exactly, exactly. Or in the parish, where the pastor refused to turn on the heat, and we had a huge school in Cicero, Holy Mount, it was a big school. Everybody said, “Oh you can’t do anything, you know, he’s old and he’s been there forever.” And I just lined the kids up and said, “You’re going home, it’s too cold to be in school.” He came racing out of the rectory, “What’s going on?” because the children are marching in line. I said, “We’re all going home because you won’t turn the heat on.” He turned on the heat. I was the principal there, and I was young and I was playing three masses a day and teaching music and teaching the eighth grade and being the principal. And you can do all those things, because God will help you.

SCARPINO: So if you’re doing three masses a day, one of those is at the crack of dawn, right?


SCARPINO: So that’s when your day started.

MATUSAK: That’s right, that’s right. It always did anyway. At 5 o’clock you were up in the convent. The big difference in the Catholic schools then and now, I think, was that when we got home from school—we prayed and all—you sat at the recreation table in the evenings from 7:00 to 8:00 and everybody was sharing. “You had so-and-so, you had Phil’s sister, was she like this?” blah, blah, blah. You learned a lot about the kids in school and what others were doing in their classrooms because your life was dedicated to God and those kids. You can’t have that when you’re a married person. So we had a different kind of existence, I think, but it wasn’t cloistered.

SCARPINO: I’d like to say for the record, I knew that, but I was trying to draw you out. (Laughing) Make a little transparency here. So, I’ve read some of the things, not everything, but some of the things that you’ve written about leadership and quite a bit that’s been written about you. For example, you said in the Kellogg Fellows Leadership Alliance Blog, which was your first blogging attempt, May 19, 2009, you said, “I define leadership as the ability and passion to attain positive results by encouraging others and by working with and through others to achieve a common good. From my perspective, true leaders are courageous people. They’re not afraid to take a risk and they don’t waste much time worrying about what other people might think of them.” So, it seems to me that that definition is a pretty good summary of your career.

MATUSAK: Yes, right.


MATUSAK: I guess I have to admit that. Yes.


MATUSAK: You know, but somebody always recognized something, Phil. As I said, I never looked for a job. When I got the job at the University of Minnesota and then I got a phone call from Indiana from the Vice President there saying that he had a bunch of fuddy-duddies for deans and he wanted a new college created and he’d like me to come and do it. He had heard about the alternative baccalaureate. I said, “No, thank you. I love what I’m doing here. I love teaching.” And I still do, Phil. I love teaching. And I’m happy. I got an airline ticket in the mail to go to the University of Evansville, Indiana. I took the ticket to my boss and he looked at me and he looked at it and he said “Go.” I did, and I got that job.

SCARPINO: Flying into Evansville must have been some trick in those days.

MATUSAK: It was, it was, and having the interview was a real trick too, but I don’t know if you want to hear about that.

SCARPINO: I’m going to ask you about that in a few minutes. Your definition, does effective leadership begin with somebody who has a vision or insight of the common good?

MATUSAK: Yes, yes, I mean we can use the word vision, but it makes people nervous. But having some insight and concern for the common good is the really important thing. And if I’m concerned about the common good, I’m going to have a vision on how to make it better.

SCARPINO: So, how do we know what serves the common good?

MATUSAK: How do you know what serves the common good? If what you’re thinking about doing is going to selfishly only reward only a handful of people who are already rewarded with everything they need, that to me is not the common good. The common good, and I’m not being socialist in my thinking, but the common good is actions that will help facilitate the improvement of people on all levels, not just one segment.


MATUSAK: For example, in the award that I have set up with KFLA, Courageous Leadership Award, the first receiver of that reward was a judge from the Louisiana/New Orleans area. He worked with teenagers and he said he could no longer tolerate the way the law treated teenagers and he took off his robe and said “Keep it” and he’s working—gave up his judgeship. That’s courageous leadership because he wanted to work for the common good of these kids, not condemn them.

SCARPINO: How do you go about encouraging others, or working with and through others? You mentioned the presidential race and, you know, Congress, I mean that seems to be an increasingly difficult thing to do.

MATUSAK: It is, it is. But you know, when working with the Fellows, again here’s my gift—somehow or other my caring, my love, my listening—that’s what they tell me—inspires them. And they worked well and hard and were very, very successful, and that seems what I do to people. And I don’t want to do anything to people, I want to do it with them, but this is what they will tell me, even here in Sun City, and it always amazes me.

SCARPINO: Because you are active in the local community here?

MATUSAK: Yes, this is a neighborhood. That was another reason I didn’t want to be outside. It’s an amazing neighborhood as far as I’m concerned. Now, people say that I’m responsible for some of that, and I say I don’t know how, but we get together, we have parties all the time. Sixteen of us women get together and go to lunch once a month and I missed the lunch because I was really not feeling well last week and Connie went to the lunch. That afternoon, I had a woman come with a walker and another woman come—they all ended up here saying, “We missed you at lunch.” What is that, Phil?

SCARPINO: Well, part of what it is, is that you are your mother.

MATUSAK: Well, that just makes me want to cry.

SCARPINO: I mean, that’s what she did. Did you ever think about that?

MATUSAK: I’m just so grateful. Excuse me…

SCARPINO: That’s okay. You went on to say in that definition that true leaders are courageous people, they’re not afraid to take a risk and they don’t waste time worrying about what other people think about them. So again, I’m going to say that sort of defines your career, but what does courage exhibited by a leader look like?

MATUSAK: It’s different, depending upon the situation and the person. Perhaps I showed a great deal of courage at the end of the interview in Evansville, but to somebody else it might have been something they thought was crass. Courage is different in different people and the judge I mentioned, and Susie Sygall, who is in a wheelchair, but has started Wheelchair International and has done all sorts of remarkable things. That takes that kind of courage. So, courage is what I described there; it’s the ability to make a decision and don’t care what other people say. If you feel it is right and it’s going to affect the common good, you do it.

SCARPINO: So what did you do at the end of the interview that could have been interpreted as crass?

MATUSAK: Well, this Dr. Simmons—he’s deceased now, but a remarkable man, brilliant man.

SCARPINO: President of the university?

MATUSAK: He was vice president. He was the one who had called me first. He sat there with his entourage of deans and vice presidents and said to me, “What would you do in three years if we awarded you this position?” Now that made my hair go up because I wasn’t looking for the position, so don’t say “if you were awarded.” So I was already a little ticked at that and so I said to him what I would do in three years, provided I had the monies to do it. And he said, “Well, that’s one year; now what would you do in three?” And I just picked up all my belongings, I stood up and I said, “Sir,”—by this time I had three days of interviewing—I said “You can take your job and shove it,” and I headed to the door. And the whole room cracked up and somebody said, “She’s got your number, Charles.” And he came running after me and put his arm around, “I’m sorry, I’m sorry” and blah, blah, blah, and I decided then I would take the position because he was humble enough to say he was sorry right away.

SCARPINO: Sort of like lining up all those kids and taking them home to make the Father turn the heat back on.

MATUSAK: Exactly, exactly. So some people would say, “God, that was crass,” but I just felt I needed to do that.

SCARPINO: So, particularly given the world we live in today, why do you think it’s important for effective leaders to be willing to take a risk?

MATUSAK: Because nobody is doing it. We’re all like a bunch of lemmings. Because the press has become so vicious with its attacks on people, nobody has the courage to stand up because we all have a skeleton in our closet. This is not helping us as a nation and as people, as you know. I look around, I listen, we read everything on all sides, from the Wall Street Journal, everything, both Connie and I, and I don’t see any courage at all, but I know why—because people are fearful because we all have something in our closets that we don’t want exposed and so there’s no courage. I’m concerned about that and that’s why I started that award. If I could just find one person every year, every two years, because that one person will have the ripple effect. It will encourage many other people and that’s what I’m hoping to spread, courageous leadership.

SCARPINO: It’s the Larraine Matusak Courageous Leader Award?

MATUSAK: Yes. I don’t care the age, I don’t care the color, I don’t care the person. I just want courage to make a difference.

SCARPINO: So how does an effective and courageous leader, or effective and creative risk-taker—how does that person go about motivating others?

MATUSAK: I guess the same thing that I’ve told you. How do you motivate others? Love them, care for them, inspire them, tell them they can do it, don’t try to do it yourself. They can do it. They can make a difference. It’s very important that we motivate other people to get good things done and not try to do it yourself.

SCARPINO: Does that also get people invested in what they’re doing and have them take ownership of what they’re doing, and not expect somebody else to do it for them?

MATUSAK: Absolutely. You need to be an enabler in that case.

SCARPINO: So in that case it’s good to be an enabler?

MATUSAK: Exactly. You want to enable people, “You can do it. Do it. Try it. You’d be surprised you can do it.” Dr. Sublett, Roger’s a perfect one on that. When I hired him at the University of Evansville, he had been teaching a history course. And I said, “I need an Assistant Dean.” And he said, “I can’t do administration; I wouldn’t be an administrator. I can’t do it.” And I said, “Yes you can, and you will if you want to.” That’s the key, you have to want to do it. He’s a marvelous administrator.

SCARPINO: He was relatively fresh out of graduate school when you hired him, right? Did you ever see him in Denver?

MATUSAK: No. Tulane. He didn’t finish his doctorate. I don’t know if he told you that. I hired him and he had not finished his doctorate. Finally I said to him, “You’re going to finish that degree. I’ll give you the time off to do it, and if you don’t have it done by X date, I’m going to fire you.”

SCARPINO: I will say that he and other people did use the term “tough love” to describe you.

MATUSAK: I remember driving to his house and going to see if he was working on his dissertation in the basement and not playing with the kids.

SCARPINO: Well, he must have been working on it. He finished it.

MATUSAK: He was, he was and he did, yeah. He and Hansen, Richard Hansen, the two young men.

SCARPINO: Who also worked for you down there.


SCARPINO: I talked to Mr. Hansen as well.

MATUSAK: Right. Oh, did you? He’s a wonderful guy. They were a big contrast. Roger is dark-haired and loud and boisterous, and Rich is blonde as they come and very quiet. When he was ever interviewing, I always said, “Don’t be deceived by his quietness. He’s like a whale; he moves a hell of a lot of water with no noise.”

SCARPINO: (Laughing) That’s a good way to put it.

MATUSAK: And he’s just wonderful, yeah.

SCARPINO: So, we’ll talk more about this later, but your book, Finding Your Voice: Learning to Lead . . . Anywhere You Want to Make a Difference, the last chapter is titled “Summoning the Courage to Act.” I’m going to read a line out of that because not everybody that listens to this will have read it. You said, “Now there is one more step that we need to take as we work together toward more effective leadership. That step is developing the courage to take action: the ability to make it happen, to translate your passion into reality, to develop a plan of action and produce results.” Was there a point in your life or in your career when you realized that you had the ability to summon the courage to act?

MATUSAK: Yes, yeah.

SCARPINO: When was that?

MATUSAK: I think so. At the University of Minnesota while I was teaching, because I objected, as I said, to the way we treated students. But even the general students when I taught the chemistry class, it was accepted, you know this from your university stint, that half the class is going to fail in chemistry and the other half will go on.

SCARPINO: We call those flunk-out classes, as I recall.

MATUSAK: That’s right, and I refused to accept that. So there I had an amphitheater of 250 students in a chemistry class and what I did—I did this with some method that I won’t elaborate on—but I took the bottom group that were going to flunk, and the top group who were just real whizzes, and I brought them together and I said, “Nobody will flunk this class if you sign this contract.” The top kids were going to be tutors and the bottom were going to be the tutorees, they were going to meet a minimum of twice a week, and then meet with me—the tutors—every week, meet with me. Well, first of all, it made me a better teacher because if the tutors all came in with the same problem that the kids were having, I knew I didn’t teach it right. And so I would revise the way I would present that issue in chemistry. The point is, very few flunked and the university and all the professors in the science department were on my back that I’m just passing everybody. And so I had to face that and say, “Come sit in my class,” which they did. When they saw what I did to help these kids—many of them were—they got Cs and Bs, they did very well with the final exams. When they saw what I did, they said it was too much work.

SCARPINO: For you.

MATUSAK: Yeah. And then the one man, the one chemist who was almost a Nobel guy, he was just brilliant, he came to me and he said, “Would you come sit in my class and see what I’m doing?” So I went in and oh my God, Bill, what was happening, I said, “Bill, you are so brilliant, you are so much smarter than I am, you’re thinking the things but you’re not saying them and you’re not putting them on the board. You’re only putting what you end up with and the kids are all lost in the tangle of it. So just try to slow down and when you’re thinking it, start putting it down and they’ll understand you. Try.” Bill Schwabacher. I don’t think he ever could do that. He was too brilliant. He shouldn’t have been teaching general chemistry. He should have been in a role like yours, a researcher.

SCARPINO: Well, I will say for the record that I do teach the beginning classes. This is my sideline.

MATUSAK: Yeah, but not with chemistry.

SCARPINO: Oh, no, if I had to teach chemistry, I could not summon the courage to act if I had to teach chemistry. (Laughing)

MATUSAK: Well, we’re all different on that one.

SCARPINO: But I was a forestry major as an undergraduate, but that was 45 years ago.

MATUSAK: Yeah, but see—look at that too, though. Again, God is good, but I think you want to hear this, too. When I was in the convent, I was sent to the College of St. Benedict to get a major in psychology. Now, I had been going to DePauw University and to Benedictine University and had credits in everything. They were changing my major all the time. If you looked at my transcripts and I never opened my mouth to you, you’ll say, “God, a kid who never could make up her mind what she wanted to do.” Yeah I could, but I kept being told…

SCARPINO: This was the Benedictines that kept telling you to change your major?

MATUSAK: Yeah, oh yeah. I mean I took Spanish I, II, III and French I all at one time at DePauw University, because they wanted me in languages.

SCARPINO: Good heavens.

MATUSAK: And I never taught languages. But anyway, they didn’t have a psychology major at St. Ben’s. And so I got on the phone in the Registrar’s Office next to the President’s Office and, you know the College of St. Benedict is a women’s institution?


MATUSAK: Yeah, marvelous institution. I got on the phone with the Reverend Mother and said, “I can get on a train and go up to Duluth, St. Scholastica’s has a major in psychology. The President walks out into the Registrar’s Office and she’s a microbiologist, and I’m talking on the phone to the Reverend Mother and she’s looking at my transcripts, the President is, and so she takes the phone and she’s talking to the Reverend Mother. And I had several sciences, and I had all A’s, and I got the phone back and the Reverend Mother said, “No, you’re not going to St. Scholastica’s.” I said, “Okay, well, do you want me to come back home?” And she said, “No, you’re going to get a double major in biology and chemistry.” I said, “I’ve never had an interest in biology and chemistry.” “Create one, Dear,” and she hung up. And so I did.

SCARPINO: And you did, really.

MATUSAK: Yeah, I did, and aced it.

SCARPINO: What do you develop that interest? What did you find attractive about biology and chemistry, because you did go on for a graduate degree?

MATUSAK: Yeah, I did. What did I find attractive about it? Well, number one, first of all, God had helped me for sure because I had never thought I would be in that discipline. Secondly, l loved nature very much and my music and my sound—I mean I have perfect pitch and so going out and recognizing bird sounds, etc., in biology classes, I loved, I loved, because I could do that very easily. And I just decided, okay, I have a gift for this so I can succeed, I will succeed in this. I struggled with chemistry in the beginning. I really struggled because it was so mathematical. But then I said, I love music and music is mathematical, so this will be fun too. And it was.

SCARPINO: We did mention, and I’m just going to make sure this is in the record, that you do sponsor the Kellogg Fellows Leadership Alliance Matusak Courageous Leadership Award.

MATUSAK: That’s correct.

SCARPINO: Again, looking at that blog post you did on May 26, 2009, which was your first one, you said, “The essential nature of courage and action in leadership on every level, whether it be in schools, communities, corporations, or government has become an issue of great importance to me.” You went on to say that, “Every day I look for examples of courageous leadership and find that they are scarce.” When you wrote that in 2009, why did you conclude that there were so few examples of courageous leadership?

MATUSAK: Battle Creek is a city of about 50,000 or 60,000, but with all the surrounding areas it’s 100,000 people. It has a lot of problems; racial problems, as well as poverty, as drugs, etc. I didn’t and still don’t really see anyone stepping up to make a difference in that community anymore. Russ Mawby always did. He was marvelous. There is a young woman in Battle Creek now who—well she isn’t that young anymore; she’s probably in her 50s, but that’s young for me.

SCARPINO: (Laughing) Young depends on your angle of vision.

MATUSAK: Exactly. And she is stepping forward and making some surprising courageous decisions and I’m very pleased about that. But it’s scarce. And the same thing with our Parish, I belong to St. Phil’s.

SCARPINO: In Battle Creek?

MATUSAK: Yes. Until we had got Father John about four years ago, the church was almost empty. Now, it’s full and people are doing things to make a difference in the community, to reach out to people. So, it’s happening, but it’s scarce.

SCARPINO: Why do you think, at least in leadership terms, that the church went from almost empty to almost full?

MATUSAK: Pastor, the pastor. The previous pastor didn’t listen to the people, didn’t reach out to the people and to the kids. Father John listens, he reaches out, he’s making a difference in the Parish. I mean, we have an old building—it’s called the Tiger Building—and it’s four stories high, it’s brick, it’s built like the Rock of Gibraltar, but it’s in shambles. He is putting it all together and getting people from the community to come in and do it, to make it a community kitchen, and to do different kinds of small businesses within it. And everybody’s all excited about it. And where there was no money, he’s raised a million in a couple of months. Leadership. He is very charismatic. He’s very caring, a very caring man. So, yeah, there’s leadership going on now.

SCARPINO: I’m not going to jump through my notes to get the exact name of this, but you were involved, or maybe still are involved, with an organization that serves the needs of battered women in Battle Creek?

MATUSAK: S.A.F.E. Place. Yes, I was the president of the board, yeah.

SCARPINO: When did you do that?

MATUSAK: That was in the ’80s, in the 1980s, too early on. Again, I just didn’t have that experience with anybody being battered, not growing up ever, and when they asked me to be on the board, I said I don’t know. So they brought me in to take me on a tour and, Phil, as I went into the building they were in then, which was pretty much a shattered building, a little two-story house, across the street was a fella, walking up and down swinging a baseball bat. I didn’t think anything of it then, until I got inside and in the office was a woman all black and blue and a little kid crying. That was the daddy who had beat both of them up. And I thought, I’ve got to know more about this organization. And so I did. I went on the board and then became the board chair.

SCARPINO: In those days, in the 1980s, the issue of violence against women didn’t have public profile that it has now.

MATUSAK: No, that’s correct. Again, you know the courage to make a difference with that kind of organization and what we don’t do societal—I mean there always was money to give to a woman to have at least two to three months in an apartment after she got herself settled down, etc., and find a job. No more money for that. None. Governor Snyder takes everything away. So you say it’s more prominent now; I’d say it is and it isn’t, and the hands that hold the dollars are still hanging on to the dollars for other things.

SCARPINO: Back to the issue of whether leadership serves the common good.

MATUSAK: Yeah, that’s exactly right. I think it’s difficult to serve the common good. I’m not saying it’s easy. I think it’s very difficult and I think that some people you have seen give up their roles because they couldn’t do what they thought they could in that role. I need some more water, if you don’t mind.

SCARPINO: Sure, let me hit pause.


SCARPINO: We’re back on again. So we were talking about 2009 and you noticing that there were not a lot of examples of courageous leadership. How about in 2016, as you look around?


SCARPINO: Yeah, in what way?

MATUSAK: It’s worse. Maybe it’s just because my globe has become smaller. I realized that when we went to Barcelona. When you’re retired as long as I am now, 20 years, your globe of interaction with people becomes smaller and a lot of the people who you thought as courageous are dying along the way. Men like Russ Mawby, make a big difference, he made a big difference and was not always popular, but very charismatic and in the end…

SCARPINO: Amazing guy. I mean, I would say that I know him.

MATUSAK: He’s an amazing man, and we are very good friends and it’s sad to see to him now, but he’s in poor, poor health and his mind is going and his hearing is gone and his eyes, he can’t see, and it’s really kind of sad. But anyway, your globe becomes smaller and smaller. After Barcelona, I have so many invitations to speak in different places that I want to hurry up and get well so that…

SCARPINO: So that you can do it.

MATUSAK: Yes, right. I want to get out there and make a difference and I really feel—you can snip this out later—but I really feel God is keeping me alive because I have something to do. I have something to say and I’ve got to do that something before I go, before I fold up my tent. I’ve got work to do.

SCARPINO: Well, I mean I’m glad to hear that you had such a good experience in Barcelona. I mean, I heard rave reviews.

MATUSAK: Oh, thank you, but I had a great time.

SCARPINO: So you spent 19 years of your teenage and young adulthood as a Catholic Sister with the Benedictines. That’s a chunk of your life.


SCARPINO: As I understand it, you served in Illinois and in Texas; is that right?

MATUSAK: I served in Wisconsin, Illinois, Texas, Lisle. I think that’s about it. Yeah, different places. Wherever they had a mission, I think I served.

SCARPINO: Was the mission primarily outreach to disadvantaged?

MATUSAK: No, they were running schools.


MATUSAK: But you know, people have the wrong idea about Catholic schools, they always did. They always thought that only the rich kids could go to a Catholic school. That’s not true, because we take all kinds of kids and give scholarships to those who can’t afford it. But, yeah, we reached out to communities and did community work, a lot of community work.

SCARPINO: So, I want to talk to you a little bit about the years that you spent as a Benedictine, and if we could do it to get you to talk about ways in which those experiences helped to shape the rest of your life and as you self-consciously became a leader and that kind of thing. As I understand it, you had both teaching and administrative experience in those 19 years?

MATUSAK: Exactly.

SCARPINO: You assisted with the building of schools, you already mentioned that. Even when you didn’t know how to do it, you figured out how to do it. And you were working in a faith-based and value-based environment.


SCARPINO: So, first question: Could you just sort of give us an overview of the various places that you were assigned?


SCARPINO: It doesn’t have to be complete, but just sort of an idea of the kinds of things you did.

MATUSAK: Yeah, well one of the first places I was assigned was a school, Joan of Arc, in Lisle, Illinois. I think that’s where I discovered how much I loved teaching and had a great time there. I was there for three years, I think, and had a great time teaching those kids. A couple of the women are now nuns, became nuns. The men, one of them is a Brother, one is a priest, and they did wonderful things. That was one school. That was a good school.

Then I was in Texas, and the convent we lived in had been an old chicken place and so you had the smell of old chickens.

SCARPINO: By chicken place, do you mean a chicken coop place?

MATUSAK: Yes, it smelled from chicken. You know, you can’t clean that out no matter what. That was a tough experience. That was one of the hardest times of my life because it was hot, Texas is hot, and the environment was not inviting and loving and caring. And we were trying to reach out to the people, to the students, and I had made up my mind, in fact, that I wanted to stay in Texas.

Then I was assigned to another school and I taught for two years in the choir loft of the church because there wasn’t a school to teach in.

SCARPINO: That was also in Texas?

MATUSAK: Mmhmm. I had seventh and eighth grade up on the choir loft and played for masses up there and then had my classes up there. It was very, very different. And I taught some of the servicemen music on the Air Force Base, Carswell Air Force Base, and other experiences. Well, you know all of them, Holy Mount I already mentioned to you and…

SCARPINO: Holy Mount is where?

MATUSAK: Cicero, Illinois. Yeah, that was an interesting experience because we had wonderful kids, wonderful students, and in Berwyn, they were having lots of trouble with their students. When we looked into—why would that be? They’re neighboring suburbs; why the big differences? One thing we found is that the kids at Holy Mount, which was a much more Eastern European ethnicity, when they went home, grandma was there and grandma would see to it that they did their homework and what have you. It was much more family-oriented than they were in Cicero, which was interesting for me. I was learning all of this as a younger nun. When I got to the point of the Academy, we had a very exclusive Academy.

SCARPINO: And the Academy was where?

MATUSAK: At Lisle. I was assigned to teach sciences there, but what came to me was that I couldn’t do what I really wanted to do. I was working with this exclusive bunch of young women who could afford to come to an exclusive academy, and that wasn’t what I really wanted to do. Yeah, I taught, and I had great fun, believe me. I made a lot of shock in the community I’m sure because I had a science lab where I believed I should have a lot of living things and one of the girls brought me a dying puppy which we kept alive and brought to life. I named it Sartre after Jean-Paul Sartre. And I had a monkey named Piffer, and I would put the monkey on a leash and the dog on the leash, and we’re not allowed to have dogs in the convent, but the monkey would ride on the dog’s back and we’d go for walks around the huge place. The monkey would catch—well they’re bugs—but catch them and eat them on the back of Sartre and the nuns would all have a fit and go to Chapel and pray for me because I was a sinner.

SCARPINO: For walking around with a dog you rescued with a monkey riding on its back.

MATUSAK: That’s right, that’s right. And they just were scandalized that I would do such a thing. Anyway, I couldn’t do the things that I wanted to do. Then I got this grant to study at the University of Minnesota and I got permission to accept it and I went to Minnesota. Really, that was a big turning point in my life because I realized that, first of all, I was now working with students who were coming from the farms especially. And when you’re a nun, you’re a neuter; you’re not a vetoing parent and you’re not an administrator at the university who’s going to throw them out. So, I found myself with an open door policy in my little studio apartment and I would have kids coming in crying and I was working with these young people who were hitting drugs for the first time in their lives, or being in a big university campus, and my convent wants me to come back and teach in high school. I couldn’t do it. I just couldn’t do it. And so I just said, “I can’t do it,” and went to talk to a confessor and he said, “You have two alternatives; you can become a bitchy old nun or you can make that horrible decision after 19 years to leave and construct a new life.” And so, you know my decision.

SCARPINO: I understand that when you made that decision that you actually went through a process, you didn’t just walk away.

MATUSAK: Oh, no.

SCARPINO: Laicization, is that the right word?

MATUSAK: Yeah. And the Benedictines are not under bishops, they’re under Rome. So I had to write a letter to Rome to get a dispensation from my vows, which I did receive. And there, too, my dad was dead but I couldn’t rely on my mother; we were poor. And you get $300 and a wave goodbye. You have no clothes, you don’t have a spoon, you don’t have a fork, you don’t have anything.

SCARPINO: So I was going to ask you, when you left, you literally were starting over.

MATUSAK: Oh, absolutely.

SCARPINO: $300, some clothes and a suitcase sort of thing, and that was it.

MATUSAK: That’s right, that’s right. And clothes you didn’t have because you had habits and so you had nothing, absolutely nothing. But you know what? I never thought about it that way. In fact, what I remember what we did is I was working for Dr. Rassweiler. He was a physicist, an amazing man, and in fact, he and his wife owned this house and I kind of became their daughter that they never had.

SCARPINO: They owned this house that we’re sitting in now?



MATUSAK: Because when he was dying, he called and we came, both Connie and I came here to see him; we had come before when he was dying and he begged that we not allow Irene to be put into a nursing home. And we promised and I kept my promise. We were here every three months and we cooked until we dropped so she had food while we were gone and somebody to take care of her. But we did until she died and then it was a shock and a pleasure that she left the house to us. It was a shambles. It was really bad. We were going sell it and after we tore out all of the stinky carpeting and painted and did all this stuff, we said, “Let’s try it.” So we spend our winters here now.

SCARPINO: So, when you were coming down here to cook for her, where were you commuting from?

MATUSAK: From Battle Creek.

SCARPINO: Commute seems a little like the wrong term for that. It’s a long way from Battle Creek.

MATUSAK: Yes, it’s a long way, it’s a long way, but it was from Battle Creek and we did that for I don’t know how many years, but we did it. We promised and we were going to do that.

But anyway, going back to how that happened at the University of Minnesota. So I realized that I had a mission and I wanted to fulfill that mission. I just felt that’s what God wanted me to do and it was a tough time. And yeah, you know it meant that, for example, Merrill Rassweiler saw to it that my classes were put in the morning and then in the afternoon I ran like a madwoman to the bathroom and changed into whites and rushed over to the hospital and worked on the crash team at the hospital until midnight.

SCARPINO: So, by whites, you mean a nurse’s uniform?


SCARPINO: Were you trained as a nurse?


SCARPINO: So you were volunteering at the hospital?


SCARPINO: Or you were being paid?

MATUSAK: No, I was paid, being paid.

SCARPINO: Okay, so you got a paying job, a second job, so to speak.

MATUSAK: Right, right.

SCARPINO: In the Emergency Room.

MATUSAK: Right, right.

SCARPINO: What did you do there?

MATUSAK: Well, what I did primarily was the EKGs and going with the crash team. I ran around the hospital with the crash team.

SCARPINO: The crash team is when people have heart attacks?

MATUSAK: Yeah, code blue. I did that and I enjoyed it, but it was from three until midnight and then at midnight I’d study until about two in the morning and then get up at five and go in and do tutoring for jocks and start my workday of classes and study.

SCARPINO: (Laughing) I did that too.

MATUSAK: Yeah, you know, so we were doing all kinds of jobs to make money to live. And I remember, in fact I said that to Connie—I did chicken pot pies last night because I didn’t feel like cooking—and I said, “You know what? I remembered I had $5 a week for food. That was all that I could afford.” The University of Minnesota does not pay well, and when you’re studying and teaching for them, I believe my highest salary there was $13,000. That’s not a lot of money.

SCARPINO: You were, at that point, a doctoral student, is that right?


SCARPINO: In one of your emails to me when we were corresponding back and forth, you mentioned that you had been a Mother Superior?


SCARPINO: Where was that, and what does that entail?


SCARPINO: So, near Dallas?

MATUSAK: Yes, Fort Worth.

SCARPINO: Fort Worth, sorry.

MATUSAK: In White Settlement, you know. Well, it means being responsible for all the Sisters under you and seeing to it to their health, their education, and I had a very different perspective about all that. So, I was opening up doors for these women and then you get threatened because you’re allowing them to be too worldly, you know.

SCARPINO: What were you doing that could have been interpreted as too worldly?

MATUSAK: Sending them off to get education, to institutions in Texas; are you kidding? But I did. I did. And you faced the music for it when you got home. And even myself—and this one’s going to be really bizarre—but when I got the grant…

SCARPINO: To go to the University of Minnesota?

MATUSAK: Yeah, one of the things with that grant then that evolved—everything evolves—was another grant where I was to study Alpine vegetation.

SCARPINO: Not too much of that in Minnesota, is there?

MATUSAK: No, but that was going to come from out in Colorado. I got permission again, and I said, “Well, I can’t,”—he tells us we’re going up into the mountains and I can’t go in the habit. “So, may I please go and purchase some jeans and whatever I need?” They said “no.”

SCARPINO: They wanted you to go up into the mountains wearing a habit?

MATUSAK: That’s right.

SCARPINO: And those black shoes.

MATUSAK: That’s right. And what they did—this is so ridiculous, but you know why my mindset changed—they took a habit, and they sewed it up the middle like pants and that’s what I was supposed to wear.

SCARPINO: So, I don’t mean this to sound disrespectful, but those are like Sister culottes.

MATUSAK: That’s right. But they were long, they’re long. I laughed so hard when they arrived. We were in a dormitory. I went into the hallway and I was dancing down the hallway with them. But I got rid of them and I made myself a pair of culottes, you might say, and took a bleach bottle, emptied it, cut the bleach bottle, cut my veil, took all the face stuff off and had the bleach bottle with the veil and that’s all I put on. Well, somebody got pictures and somebody sent pictures back to the convent.


MATUSAK: Yeah. So all hell broke out when I got there. But worse, and what made me realize I had to leave, was that I was walking down the hallway, dressed in the full garb again, back at the convent, and one of the old nuns met me and she looked at me and she said, “You adulteress,” because she had seen the picture of the way I was dressed.

SCARPINO: Oh my word.

MATUSAK: I thought, I can’t stay here. I cannot stay here.

SCARPINO: So, was part of the reason that you left that at some point it just became too limiting?

MATUSAK: Yes. Yeah, my community was not moving forward. College at St. Ben’s nuns were entirely different. They were very futuristic in their thinking, a very, very different group of Benedictines, and we had somehow stagnated.

SCARPINO: So in the 19 years that you belonged to that convent, they got older…

MATUSAK: They stagnated…

SCARPINO: …and set in their ways…

MATUSAK: Yeah, well the first Reverend Mother was very forward-looking. She was very good, the one who told me I wouldn’t be a diva. She was marvelous, marvelous. And things were growing under her. Then we had a Reverend Mother who was really, really not good and it stagnated, everything just stagnated.

SCARPINO: I understand, and I hope I got this right, that you spent two years in medical school.

MATUSAK: No, no, that’s not right.

SCARPINO: University of Illinois?

MATUSAK: Yeah, I was accepted, but I never was allowed to accept it, to go.


MATUSAK: Never was allowed.

SCARPINO: So, whose idea was it that you apply to medical school?

MATUSAK: I was the first woman to take classes at St. John’s University.

SCARPINO: Which is the Catholic college that’s sort of the pair with St. Benedict?

MATUSAK: Yeah, right. Right now, I mean they do everything as hour on the hour, bussing and it’s all coed, but it’s still women and men. They’ve done some very smart things on leadership and I’m going to interject that. They put the women through leadership training for two and a half years as women, and the men the same thing. Then they bring them together for leadership training and it’s an entirely different group because the women have a sense of security about themselves and strength, and it’s wonderful. But, anyway, yeah, where were we?

SCARPINO: I asked you about medical school and you said you took classes at St. John’s.

MATUSAK: Yeah, St. John’s. I was the first woman and they thought… I had embryology, and the priest who did the teaching there said that I was material for medical school. So, being naive—call it what you like, you know—the nuns encouraged me to apply and so I did. And I was accepted. Then my community said, “No, you have to come back and teach.” But that was my life with my community. I was forever being changed in whatever I was doing, always.

SCARPINO: For reasons that were not clear?

MATUSAK: I was a spoke in the wheel, for their use. Whatever they needed, somehow I needed to come home and fix.

SCARPINO: Was that because you had talent?

MATUSAK: I think it was because they thought I had talent, but they never thought about me as a person and how that might affect me.

SCARPINO: When you left, did you carry that lesson with you; remember to think about individuals as people?

MATUSAK: Oh my God, yes, I certainly did. I have no resentment of the community, however. I learned a lot there. And when people ask me why I’m so open to change, I say “19 years.” You went to Chapel on August 15th, after a retreat, and the Reverend Mother would walk down the aisles and hand you a piece of paper, and it said where you were going and what you were going to do. You may have been at Holy Mount for five years, and your piece of paper said, “You’re going to Fort Worth, Texas.” Texas. And you had two hours to pack a suitcase, one suitcase, and go. And you get accustomed to that. So I learned a lot about change. I can take change. I can take change overnight, if you want to say it that way. I also learned how to get along with people because nuns are just like every other people in any other community; there are good ones and there are those who are really downright nasty. And you learn to live with them because it’s God’s will that you’re with them. I learned a lot there, so I have no animosity. I spent 19 years. Maybe I should have only spent 10; no, it’s okay. It all worked out well.

SCARPINO: You got into medical school, which is not easy.

MATUSAK: That’s right. I didn’t know that then.

SCARPINO: That was the University of Illinois?


SCARPINO: Do you think you would have made a good doctor?

MATUSAK: Yes, I think I would have.

SCARPINO: You’d been working on the crash cart and everything.

MATUSAK: Right, yeah, I think I would have made a good doctor.

SCARPINO: So, you got your Bachelor’s from College of St. Benedict in 1966. We sort of alluded to this, but College of St. Benedict was founded in 1913 by Benedictine sisters, the only Benedictine college for women in the country. It remains a Catholic college focused on women. I got on their website.

MATUSAK: They’re doing great things.

SCARPINO: It emphasizes values-based leadership, to prepare women for roles in a diverse world.


SCARPINO: I copied that off their website.

MATUSAK: They’re doing wonderful things.

SCARPINO: Were they doing leadership when you were there?

MATUSAK: No, no they were not, and it was much smaller when I was there. It has grown and they have a marvelous reputation. I’m thrilled at what’s going on there.

SCARPINO: You were biology and chemistry?


SCARPINO: I assume you were a good student.


SCARPINO: Do you feel as though you got a good education there?

MATUSAK: Excellent education there, excellent. In fact, when I went on to do the Aspen vegetation thing, yeah, I had to take a test, Alpine vegetation, take a test. And they said to me, “Why are you bothering to do this?” And I said, “Why are you asking me that?” And they said, “Well, because you know it all already.” And I said, “No, I don’t know it all already, but I got all the stuff you’re asking me back in college.” St. Ben’s, they were excellent teachers. Excellent.

SCARPINO: Besides the content of your courses, what did you take away from that experience?

MATUSAK: My life at St. Ben’s was wonderful. I spent a great deal of time in the music and theater department. And I wasn’t majoring in those areas, so I was the one who worked lights and did all that kind of stuff. As long as I was a part of it, and sang with them, etc. I took away from them that you can be a Benedictine and you can be out there doing amazing things. I have this intense loyalty. What I should have done, perhaps, looking back now, is transfer communities. I couldn’t do that. I felt this loyalty to the community where I had been and so the best thing for me to do was to leave. But I left from St. Ben’s with very warm feelings, a great deal of love for many of my instructors and teachers, and the realization that I had an education that could not be surpassed there.

SCARPINO: From the way you describe it, they’re still doing a pretty good job.

MATUSAK: They are, they are. And I stay in communication.

SCARPINO: We’re going to talk about your graduate education and so on, and your career in higher education, but I want to ask you a few more things about leadership.


SCARPINO: So, starting with the fact that nobody fits a stereotype, I’m going to do it anyhow. Do you think that there are differences, in general, in the way men and women lead?

MATUSAK: Yes, I do.

SCARPINO: How would you characterize those differences?

MATUSAK: Well, I think that women have a better sense of bringing people together to get things done and less of a need to become big man in the tower, okay? I just think women naturally have this feeling. They don’t need to be front and center. But the difference in the leadership, I think men are much more authoritative; you do it my way or you take the highway. They have to learn that they can take steps and work for the common good and get other people to do what they want done. It’s harder for them. But you know, I’ve worked with men and women, I really get along extremely well with men. I like men. I think that if they learn to give a little, they are remarkable leaders. So, you say, is it different? Yeah, it is different.

SCARPINO: As a woman in a variety of leadership positions, did you ever find yourself faced with obstacles that you felt men were not faced with?

MATUSAK: Yes, a lot of times. Many, many times.

SCARPINO: For example?

MATUSAK: Well, for example, when I was called by the chairman of the board of Edison State to apply for that position, my first response was, “No, I haven’t been a vice president yet.” He said, “Well, we’ve gone through all of our resumes, and please, we’d like you to apply.” I applied. Unanimous vote of the board, unanimous vote of the faculty that they had there, but the chancellor would not accept a woman as a state college president. I’m going to tell you exactly what he said. He put them off and he put them off, and at that time New Jersey had this strange system where it had all of its state college presidents who were totally in charge of their campuses, but they reported to the Chancellor, which is a weird set-up, and so I would have to report to him. Well he refused, he refused, and the board insisted, and he refused. They said it’s unanimous. He refused. Finally, finally, when I was ready to say, “Take your job and shove it,” he consented to an interview. So I went in for the interview and he said to me, “Well, I’ve given you a hard time, haven’t I?” And I said, “Via others, yes you have. Why?” And he said, “Well, nobody I knew knew you.” I said, “That’s interesting. Nobody I know knows you.”

SCARPINO: (Laughter) You lined the kids up again, didn’t you?

MATUSAK: That’s right, that’s right. And we got along. I had to manipulate him more than once, but we got along after that.

SCARPINO: As your career developed, did you have mentors?

MATUSAK: Oh yes, yes. Dr. Rassweiler was a very strong…

SCARPINO: At Minnesota?

MATUSAK: Yes. He was a very, very powerful, powerful mentor and guide to me without saying so. He was just an amazing man. Everybody trusted him. I was always amazed at the amount of trust he had and worked closely with him. He was definitely a mentor. Then another person who I would say had been a mentor, although I don’t think he realized it, was Dr. Charles Simmons, the one who was Vice President at Evansville. A powerful man. The faculty either hated him or loved him. I really loved him. He protected my back because I was doing unique things and faculty were angry, and I was making money, they weren’t. He was always there to protect me. He was too blustery, but he and I got along just fine.

SCARPINO: Do you think that’s a mark of a good leader, that you surround yourself with smart people and then you have their back?

MATUSAK: Yes, because if you really want people who are going to make a difference, they’re going to step on toes and so somebody’s got to protect them or they’re going to end up in a ditch. Yeah, so I think that’s very important.

SCARPINO: Have you served as a mentor to other people?

MATUSAK: I think I have. I’m told I have; that Roger and Rich Hansen and their wives. I remember when I got the award at the Union Institute, Rich Hansen’s wife came up to me and she said, “You’ll never know the hundreds you’ve mentored.”

SCARPINO: Do you think that’s a mark of a good leader, that you sort of bring them all on?

MATUSAK: Yeah, I do. But you know what, I don’t think you know it. You do it because your heart says you do it, and when somebody says that to you, you’re almost embarrassed. So, yeah.

SCARPINO: Do you feel any particular obligation or interest to serve as a mentor to women on the rise?

MATUSAK: Absolutely, absolutely. I want to be their cheerleader. As I said, I’ve said this to my spiritual advisor, I said, “It just isn’t time for me to fold up my tent because I’ve got something to say and do, and God wants me to do that.” And it’s mentoring. Yes, it is mentoring, getting people out there to make a difference.

SCARPINO: So, you got your BA in 1966. What did you do after that?

MATUSAK: I taught at the Academy, yeah. I taught at the Academy for several years. I don’t remember the years now. In 1970, I was in Minnesota and I had left the community in ’69.

SCARPINO: So, by 1968, you were enrolled in graduate studies at the University of Minnesota?

MATUSAK: Oh yeah.

SCARPINO: And that started with a Master’s Degree, and you were on leave to be there? You had a grant?


SCARPINO: I’m just going to point out that I’m really grateful to Catherine Warrick for providing me insight into that part of your career. So she’s very, very nice to talk to.

MATUSAK: Yeah, she’s a marvelous woman.

SCARPINO: Just a little context for somebody who’s listening to this interview in the future, between 1968 and ’74, you taught Natural Sciences and developed the Adult Alternative Baccalaureate Degree Program at the University of Minnesota.


SCARPINO: Also while you were there, a number of events happened that had a major influence on the trajectory of your life and your career. I want to talk about some of those. So, 1969 you got your Master’s Degree in entomology from the University of Minnesota, Minneapolis, which, for anyone who doesn’t know, is the study of insects.


SCARPINO: So, the last mention of insects in this conversation was the cockroaches on the assembly line in the meatpacking plant. So, how did you get interested in insects as a subject of graduate study?

MATUSAK: I didn’t. I wasn’t. Again, I don’t know why, I went there believing I was going to major in microbiology and the area was filled and they wouldn’t take any more students. And so the advisor, Dr. Link, advised that I go into entomology, that it would be the closest thing to microbiology. That’s how that happened.

SCARPINO: So, you’re in school and you’d finished the Master’s, you began work on a PhD at the University of Minnesota, again a science PhD, and I assume you were working on a dissertation?


SCARPINO: What was the subject of that to be?

MATUSAK: The specificity of malarial parasites in mosquitoes.

SCARPINO: Oh my goodness! So that would have required fieldwork in exotic places?

MATUSAK: Oh yeah. But the point was, at that point anyway, that I was antsy and the University of Minnesota is notorious for keeping people forever before they can really get their doctorate. So I had heard about Fielding Institute, Graduate University, and wrote my letters and had people look into it. In fact, the person who was serving as one of my advisors was the statistician at the University of Minnesota. So he looked into all of it; is it valid, etc., it’s a different kind of university. So I spent a summer in California—six weeks I think it was—with Fielding and began my work in education, creativity really, creative higher education, with Fielding. And that was a remarkable experience, too. And they’re doing really well now.

SCARPINO: Yeah, they’re still there and thriving.

MATUSAK: Oh yeah, they are.

SCARPINO: When I talked with Catherine Warrick, who then was Dean of Learning Development, I think, she told me she was about to take a position at another nearby college, and she recommended you to take charge of some new experimental degree programs being developed in the general college. She told me that she did this partly because you had administrative experience when you were with the Benedictines.

MATUSAK: Right, right.

SCARPINO: So you knew how to be an administrator. You served on the original design team and directed what became the Alternative Baccalaureate Program. When you switched from teaching to administration, do you remember the title of the position you assumed?

MATUSAK: They gave me a title of Director.

SCARPINO: And it would have been the title of this Alternative Baccalaureate…

MATUSAK: Right, right. I was still teaching.

SCARPINO: You were teaching and doing this?

MATUSAK: Oh yeah.

SCARPINO: And for a while you were still working…

MATUSAK: Studying.

SCARPINO: Okay, you were multitasking before we had the term.

MATUSAK: That’s right.

SCARPINO: Why did you decide to do this? What attracted you to that position?

MATUSAK: Well, the fact that I told you, we put students in these ticky tacky boxes and make them succeed or fail because they don’t fit the boxes. I just wanted something that I could prove—and in fact, that’s my dissertation—I could prove that if we recognize the gifts of individuals, they will succeed. They will. And they did. We took that to the Legislature and got money because I could prove that our students were graduating and getting good jobs, compared to CLA.

SCARPINO: So you got money from the Legislature to fund this Alternative Baccalaureate Program?

MATUSAK: Oh yeah, oh yeah.

SCARPINO: It occurs to me, while you’re talking though, that you several times pointed out that the university was putting the students in the ticky tacky boxes, but in the process, you were breaking out of your own ticky tacky box. Right?

MATUSAK: Yes, that’s correct, that is correct.

SCARPINO: So, did you ever feel like you were taking a risk?

MATUSAK: Oh yeah.

SCARPINO: Taking that position?

MATUSAK: Oh yeah, I knew I was taking a risk.

SCARPINO: I mean, you’re moving away from teaching, moving away from dissertation research, moving into administration, moving into a new area.

MATUSAK: That’s right, but I felt that as a teacher, I could make a difference, but as an administrator, I could really make a difference because I could protect the backs of people who are trying to make change that is good. So, that’s why I did it.

SCARPINO: Did you create the Adult Baccalaureate Program or develop it? Was it already in existence when you got there?

MATUSAK: No, it was not in existence. There was a team of us who worked on it.

SCARPINO: And you were the head of the team?

MATUSAK: Yes, yeah, we worked on that. It was a fun thing to work with a team and we had eccentricities, and we had people who thought that I was out on Mars or wherever, but we came together as friends and got it done. Same thing happened at the foundation. It’s very stereotypical kinds of people and we got things done differently.

SCARPINO: In one of the emails you sent me, you described your work with the Adult Alternative Baccalaureate Degree Program as follows. You said that you “developed an Alternative Baccalaureate Degree Program to address the needs of students who were older and didn’t fit into the rigid boxes that the university insisted they had to take or else.” How did you design that program to smash those boxes?

MATUSAK: Well, first of all, I didn’t do it alone. I did it with this group of people. But we recognized…

SCARPINO: You all, Jimmy Carter plural.

MATUSAK: Okay, well, the program in itself was modeled, as I told you, where we allowed the students to tell us what they thought they needed. We questioned them, we worked with them on an individual basis, but we didn’t say, “You must take these basic courses first,” and flunk out in them and what have you. But we recognized English was necessary; we recognized science was necessary. And you worked with the students to make a program major their own. Sociological Home Study, there’s no such major, but one of the students did develop that major. Don’t ask me specifics, I don’t remember, it’s too long ago. But it was that kind of thing where by putting together what they thought they needed plus what we said, “Yeah you ought to take this maybe because you’d be stronger here,” and they listened to us, they were successful. They had a much higher graduation rate.

SCARPINO: Did you also combine liberal arts with technical education?


SCARPINO: Was this a two-year degree?

MATUSAK: No. This was a Bachelor’s Degree.

SCARPINO: So the idea was that they would learn the English and the liberal arts subjects, but they were also, in effect, getting applied experience and getting their hands dirty.

MATUSAK: If they wanted to, yes. If they wanted to, yes.

SCARPINO: So it was an optional part?


SCARPINO: Was that common in universities at that time?

MATUSAK: No, no, absolutely not.

SCARPINO: Was it happening anywhere else that you’re aware of?

MATUSAK: No, not that I’m aware of, not at that time, too early.

SCARPINO: In the parlance of cross-country skiing, which I’m sure you’re familiar with if you lived in Minnesota, you were breaking trail.

MATUSAK: Yes, that’s right.

SCARPINO: You were skiing in the powder.

MATUSAK: Exactly, and I like doing that. I like doing that. I like discovery.

SCARPINO: You’ve pretty much done that your whole life, haven’t you?


SCARPINO: As you look back on your time with that program and the team and the students, what are you proudest of? What do you consider the most significant accomplishment? I’m going to say, your most significant accomplishment, because you were the head of the team. And if it had gone down in flames, that would have been on you, too.

MATUSAK: Yes, that’s right. The most significant accomplishment as I look back, I didn’t think of it then, but it’s again the gift that I have of bringing such different people together to work on a project and be successful. I don’t remember names now, but he would be Mr. Perfect in a square box, with a British accent and the whole bit, whom everybody was afraid of because he did all of the New York crossword puzzles in minutes, etc. He was on my team. And then a woman who was always so verbally negative about anything or anybody, she was on my team. We all got along. We all worked together. In the beginning, it was awkward and hard, but we all worked together. I remember, again, to me this is significant, is the little flashes. I had to have surgery on an eye, muscle problems, and the first one I saw when I woke up was Mr. Perfect standing at the foot of my bed. It was a powerful thing for me because he was so perfect.

SCARPINO: While you were working there at the Adult Baccalaureate Degree Program, I’m assuming that you must have experienced one or more of what we sometimes call “A-ha” moments. I want to talk to you about that, but I want to provide a little context for people who might be listening to this at some point in the future. So, you dropped out of your PhD program in science, you entered an experimental PhD program in higher education administration at the Fielding Institute, which you’ve already alluded to. The Fielding Institute had been founded in 1974, so it was new and untested. You earned the PhD in 1975 writing a dissertation titled Evaluation of the Alternative Degree Programs of the General College of the University of Minnesota. So, your work became your research, which was a clever way to get your dissertation done.

MATUSAK: Yes, that’s right.

SCARPINO: What motivated you to drop out of a science PhD program partway through and go get another one in a completely different field?

MATUSAK: Because I felt I was being smothered. I was being smothered. It had nothing to do with success, I could have succeeded, but I felt like I was being smothered and I would be smothered for a long time and I had things I had to get done and I could do this. I wouldn’t have done it if I didn’t have people like David Geesey, the statistician, looking and checking and seeing to it that everything was legitimate and that I would have a degree that was worth something and not just a throwaway degree.

SCARPINO: So he checked Fielding out carefully?

MATUSAK: Oh yeah, and then he became my mentor.

SCARPINO: So he’s the man you called Mr. Perfect?

MATUSAK: No, no, he’s not. But he really put great demands on me as I wrote my dissertation, and Mr. Perfect was always reading my chapters and he just made me feel so good, that I was a marvelous writer and what have you. But David was there as “we’re going to do this statistically.”

SCARPINO: So he was at the University of Minnesota and he helped you design the statistical analysis that gave credibility to your dissertation.

MATUSAK: Exactly, exactly, and mentored me the whole way, and he was tough. So that was good.

SCARPINO: Basically, you switched from hard science to social science.

MATUSAK: Right. Well, higher ed, yeah.

SCARPINO: Well, I mean, I guess when you start doing that statistical analysis, I call it social science.

MATUSAK: Yes, right, right.

SCARPINO: We talked about what attracted you to Fielding in Santa Barbara, but as you left science, the hard science, moved into higher ed and at least social science analysis, did any of that training and experience that you had in science stay with you and influence you as you moved forward?

MATUSAK: Absolutely.

SCARPINO: In what ways?

MATUSAK: Absolutely. I think I look at things—I want to take them apart. I have to know how it all fits together. I want to experiment and try something different. All of that comes from the science background. I don’t want something that’s been canned and tried 13 or 14 times. It was an amazing experience for me to switch to the sciences from music, etc., and then from the sciences back to something like social, as you say, social studies, but it wasn’t that at all. I mean it was working with creative higher education. I remember doing a video when we were there the six weeks and I thought, yeah, this is the way I can make a difference. This is what I can do. So, yeah, I use my science background all the time. I use it now.

SCARPINO: So, when you switched from science to higher ed, how did your superiors at the Benedictines respond to that?

MATUSAK: Well, remember, I left in 1969.

SCARPINO: Okay, all right, so you’re already gone by then.

MATUSAK: Oh yeah. And you know what? One of the reasons I did it is I said the University in Minnesota hangs on to you forever, I knew people who were working on their doctorates for six and seven years, and I said, I can’t do this. I can’t do this. Number one, I got a late start in life in making a living and I’ve got to make a living, and I’ve got to get that doctorate so that I can make a decent living. Yes, I was dating then, etc. a man, but frankly what was happening to me, I’ll be very candid—the last one was a Native—not a Native, an Indian. I thought there were a lot of male widows, widowers, and divorced guys on campus, professors, that I could find someone who I could fall in love with, Mr. Right. And we were dating, I was dating, and the last one finally broke that syndrome for me because he was all over me. I got home from that date, I remember I walked in the door and Connie had just moved in with me shortly before that, and she said, “Oh my God, you stink!” And I said, “Every time I go out, I’m not going to tell them I’ve been a nun 19 years, and these guys always want to go to bed the first date. No! That’s not me; I’m not going on any more dates. If Mr. Right comes along, I’m ready, but if he doesn’t, I’m going to make something of myself. I’m going to do what I want to do in my career.” And that’s what I did.

SCARPINO: So, there’s kind of a theme there, right?


SCARPINO: You were smothered by the Benedictines, you were smothered by the University of Minnesota, and you were definitely being smothered by these guys you were dating.

MATUSAK: Exactly.

SCARPINO: And you finally said, “I’m not going to do this.”

MATUSAK: Exactly. You got it.

SCARPINO: A certain independence; I mean, that takes courage, doesn’t it?

MATUSAK: Like my saying I quit with the piano and I never went back for a lesson, you know? Stubborn.

SCARPINO: Well, I didn’t want to say that, but it seems to me that you’ve certainly exhibited a pattern of having the courage to make choices when you wanted to move in a particular direction and it wasn’t happening.

MATUSAK: Yeah, and hearing you say that, I have to say yes, you’re right, but I never stop and think about that. I never plotted that way. If something has to be done, I do it.

SCARPINO: So, your book, Finding Your Voice: Learning to Lead . . . Anywhere You Want to Make a Difference, Chapter 4, addresses the spiritual side of leadership.


SCARPINO: I’m assuming, but I’m asking you, how much of that is related to your training as a young woman in the Catholic church and then as a Sister and so on? Is that the spiritual reservoir upon which you draw when you write that chapter?

MATUSAK: I think so, I think so. It’s there in my heart and in my head, and I accept that. Personally, I feel leadership without a spiritual base has no depth, and there’s something missing. I think that all of the work that’s being done on many levels on the executives in the business world that you’ll find in the reading if you read any of that stuff, they’re all saying the same thing: Something is missing. What is that something? It’s a sense of spirituality. Call it what you like, not religion; spirituality. It’s very different.

SCARPINO: What is the difference between spirituality and religion?

MATUSAK: Spirituality is your unity with whoever you respect as your major maker, the great person out there, great God. And religion is a segment of society that teaches you how they think you should worship this person. There’s a big difference in that. For a while, I just didn’t go to church at all. I just worked on my own heart, spirituality with a spiritual director, and said, “I want to get rid of all this stuff that smothers you.” I never used that word before, but it smothers you. And I feel very strongly about that, and yes that does come out in my chapter and I wanted to revise all that and rewrite, but something else happened, so.

SCARPINO: Are values a part of that spirituality?

MATUSAK: Absolutely, absolutely.

SCARPINO: I promised you we’d be done in two hours and so I’m going to wrap this up and just say…

MATUSAK: I’m getting a little tired.

SCARPINO: We’re going to stop. One minute, we’re going to stop, I promise, and I’ll talk for that last minute. We’re going to start next time that we sit down to talk about Evansville and then Edison College and Kellogg. We have one session left. I’m going to do this. I will let you rest and I’m going to summarize here. I want to get this in the record now.

In 1969 you earned a Master’s Degree in Science and then you began a PhD dissertation in science. You were teaching science and working on your dissertation. You took a new administrative job in the General College developing an alternative degree program focused on older students who up to that point were not well served by the university. You were so inspired or changed by that work that you dropped out of your science PhD program and earned a PhD in higher education administration at a new and untested college in Santa Barbara. You left the Benedictines after 19 years. You accepted a position in Evansville as the first Dean and Founder of the College of Alternative Programs in 1974, again concentrating on adult learners. In the meantime, while you were undertaking the new job in Evansville, you were still finishing your dissertation.


SCARPINO: There’s a lot of news and firsts in there.


SCARPINO: Did you look at it like you realized what you were doing at the time?

MATUSAK: No, no.

SCARPINO: Okay. So, then what I’ll say is that if anybody wants to find out about this, they can just tune in to the next session. Thank you very much for sitting with me for just a couple of minutes over two hours. I appreciate it very much.

MATUSAK: Thank you. Thank you, Phil; you’ve made it easier.

Part two

SCARPINO: The primary is recording. Now that we’re on, this is the second interview with Larraine Matusak. Today is March 4, 2016, and we’re again sitting at a table in her home in Sun City, which is a suburb of Phoenix, on a beautiful warm day. It’s going to be 90 this afternoon and she’s got a grapefruit tree in the backyard. It’s really a beautiful place.

So, again, I want to ask your permission to record this interview, to have the interview transcribed, to deposit the interview and the transcription in the IUPUI Special Collections and Archives, with the Tobias Center and with the International Leadership Association, with the understanding that they will make it available to their patrons which could include posting all or part of it online.


SCARPINO: Thank you. Okay, we did a lot yesterday, but in the chronological part we had gotten to the point where you were about ready to go to… I’m going to hit pause on this.


SCARPINO: Okay, we’re on again.

I’m going to quickly summarize for the benefit of anybody who comes in at this point, and then we’re going to talk about Evansville.

In 1969, you earned a Master’s Degree and began a PhD dissertation in science. You were teaching science and working on your dissertation. You took a new administrative job in the general college developing an alternative degree program focused on older students who up to that point were not well served by the university. You were so inspired or changed by that work that you dropped out of the science PhD program and earned a PhD in higher education administration at a new and untested college in Santa Barbara, California. You accepted a position in Evansville, Indiana, as the first Dean and Founder of the College of Alternative Programs in 1974, and again you concentrated on adult learners. In the meantime, while you were undertaking this new job in Evansville, you were still finishing your dissertation at the Fielding Institute, which is what we now call multitasking.

Before I go any farther, I’m going to acknowledge the assistance of Patrick McDonough and Roger Sublett in helping me understand this part of your career. They were very nice and they said I could mention them.


SCARPINO: What I just described, would it be correct for a user of this interview to conclude that facing those major life changes, you modeled courage and creative risk-taking?

MATUSAK: Yes, I would definitely say so. Also, I find myself always at the cutting edge of what’s happening. You could say that I was an entrepreneur. I smelled what was going to happen.

SCARPINO: How do you think you found the cutting edge? Because that’s true, I mean, everywhere you went you were on the cutting edge.

MATUSAK: Yeah, how does that happen, did you ask?

SCARPINO: Yeah, how did you end up in all those situations where you were on the cutting edge?

MATUSAK: Well, you know, I think because I really, really stay attuned to what’s going on in society around me and around the world. If you stay in tune with what’s happening worldwide, you get a strong feeling of what needs to happen to make a change. Like what I told you yesterday, the three things I think we must work on and nobody is, that number one, greed, it came out again in the papers just around here. It’s just ruining lives. If six percent of the S&P 500 has all the money, what are we going to do? So something has to happen.

SCARPINO: In your professional life, have you ever failed at anything?

MATUSAK: Failed? Well, you know what, I don’t think about failures. I think, yes, there are some things that didn’t work for me, but I learned from them and decided to do a different track or try things in a different way. I don’t call it a failure at the Kellogg Foundation that I didn’t become the new CEO of the foundation. Everybody thought I should, but I was the first professional woman hired there. There are lots of women, support staff; professional, I was the first. So, I look at that and I say, well now the CEO, Russ Mawby, says, “You should have followed me.” He didn’t say that when he was there.

SCARPINO: So Russ retired before you did?

MATUSAK: Oh yeah, a year before.

SCARPINO: Did you want the position?

MATUSAK: I didn’t think about it. Everybody was telling me, “You ought to.” I felt that they needed a different search committee. So Russ Mawby told me to go to Dottie Johnson, who was chairing that search committee, and talk to her. I felt that they didn’t have anyone there from the senior staff at the foundation, and I wasn’t thinking about me. There was Robert DeVries, there was several people who were there years before me. I had lunch with her and it was the most shocking lunch in my life because I explained to her that I thought just having board members looking for the CEO when you don’t really know how the place works—everything’s cleaned up when it’s brought to you as a board member—and you need to know the workings, the inner workings, and you need somebody on that committee. And she looked at me and she said, “You are the most viable candidate, but you’re too old.” I was just shocked. I said “This has nothing to do with me, I’m not a senior, I’m not one of the oldest people.” I just left and I was shattered. I was really shattered, “You’re too old,” I never think of myself as old.

SCARPINO: So, just for the record, how old were you at that point?

MATUSAK: At that point, I was 64.

SCARPINO: And now 64 is not an age for retirement for a lot of people.

MATUSAK: No, no. So anyway, did I want the position? I never thought about that. I really didn’t, because I didn’t expect the foundation, which is a man’s world, to have a woman as a leader.

SCARPINO: I knew, because I interviewed Russ Mawby in 2010, that you were the first woman professional executive level at the Kellogg Foundation. Did you think about that when you took that position?

MATUSAK: No. Again, I really wasn’t aware of all that. In fact, I said no to Russ Mawby. Russ Mawby himself called me at Edison. I loved Edison and we were going places and it was fun and I didn’t want to leave because Allan Ostar, the head of the Association of State College and University Presidents, had put me on his board. He said, “This job should be yours. You should be heading this organization at some point. Stick with us, stick with presidencies.” I liked being president; it was fun. And Russ called and I said, “Thank you, but no thank you.” I had never met him. I didn’t know anybody at Kellogg, and I was working hard and having fun doing it, and making change in that institution, moving into the buildings downtown, and the whole bit. And he called again, and he called a third time, and so when I talked to…

SCARPINO: He is persistent, isn’t he?

MATUSAK: Oh very, very. And he said, “At least come and talk to us.” And so I did. And again, it was all men who interviewed me and I’ve got to tell you, the first breakfast I had with them at the hotel in town—we have one big hotel—and of course, I was the only woman at the table. There were two vice presidents; Bob Sparks, who is now dead, Russ Mawby, and another vice president, and we ordered breakfast. And I ordered bacon and eggs and a good substantial breakfast, and they all ordered Special K cereal. When I got back to my room, because then I was going for the rest of the interview, I called Connie and I said, “I think I just lost the job.” And she said, “Did you want it?” and I said “I don’t know, but I had really good eggs and they all had cereal.”

SCARPINO: What attracted you to the position at Evansville?

MATUSAK: At Evansville, the position? The challenge of creating a whole new college within the university, and I knew the faculty would like to kill me for doing it, but I also knew that the cutting edge with CAEL—I had done a lot of work with CAEL—that the cutting edge was recognizing the fact that people out in the workplace who may have dropped out of college had learned a great deal on the job that could be equated to learning in a college classroom, and somehow they needed to get credit for that, and we were designing systems that could do that. I saw my avenue right there being a Dean, that I could solicit the help of another Dean who was really respected at the university, which I did, Dr. Garnett, and that the two of us together, I wouldn’t get beat up as much and we could do some real change-making things at the college and beyond. And we did that. And with Bob, he and I—I can’t tell you the number, it’s too long ago, but we trained people all over the United States with sophisticated processes of evaluating learning in an individual.

SCARPINO: Bob is Bob…?

MATUSAK: Dr. Garnett.

SCARPINO: And you were training through which organization when you did that?


SCARPINO: Okay. When I talked to Roger Sublett, he asked me to ask you a question. So I told him I’d do it. So this is his question. He said, “Ask her what turned her on to working with adult students?”

MATUSAK: Well, the fact that they are so eager to learn. They are very eager to learn and they’re exciting to work with because it’s not just dad and mom are paying the tuition; they are. They want to learn to make a difference for themselves and their families, and get better salaries and better jobs, etc. It’s easy working with adult learners, lots easier than working with younger people.

SCARPINO: Did it have anything to do with the fact that you were sort of an adult learner yourself?

MATUSAK: Probably, most probably. Yeah, right now, my sister and I, Connie and I, we have a whole library of the courses that they have on tapes now. Oh yeah, they’re wonderful, and when Bill Gates was interviewed on “60 Minutes” and they asked him how did he get his broad knowledge—he didn’t finish college—he pointed to the wall and he had a whole wall, like ours, full of these courses.

SCARPINO: That’s very useful, isn’t it?

MATUSAK: Oh yeah.

SCARPINO: So you were the first Dean of this new college. What were you charged to do? Actually, I’m going to back up and ask you another question.


SCARPINO: You told me yesterday, you never applied for a job.


SCARPINO: How did you come to the attention of the people at Evansville?

MATUSAK: The only way I know is that somebody told them about what was going on at the University of Minnesota. I don’t know who, I really have no idea, I never asked that question of Evansville. I never did apply for a job.

SCARPINO: What was your portfolio? What were you charged to do?

MATUSAK: What I was charged to do was create an organization within the university that would recognize what adult learners need and attract them to the university. The University of Evansville is a private school and we had a big state institution just across town. And they wanted to survive and in order to survive, they had to bring in adult students, he said, as well as the traditional student. Besides that, Dr. Simmons, the vice president, was a real visionary entrepreneur and he too had that cutting edge. He knew what was happening and he wanted it to happen at his university.

SCARPINO: How did you go about structuring the program?

MATUSAK: Well, the first thing I did was sit down and think what do I need? And there’s never any money for anybody anywhere. You know how that is. It’s very, very limited. And I didn’t have much space either at that point starting out. I knew I needed help and so I said to him, “I’ve got to have a secretary, I’ve got to have an Assistant Dean as fast as I can get one, and we’ll talk about other staff persons as we go on developing programs.” But the first program I wanted developed, was going to be a degree program. I didn’t want just a noncredit program. I wanted them to be able to earn a Baccalaureate in some degree program that was not all on campus. So I worked on designing that with a group of volunteers, people who were willing to work with me, faculty, other deans. Patrick McDonough was one of them. We had many an argument, but they were wonderful arguments and good productivity came out of them. That’s how I started. So I hired Roger and then within six months, I hired Rich Hansen. With the two of them, then we began other programs that were non-credit courses as well. Rich was a genius with that because he didn’t do basket weaving; he did really good noncredit courses that people wanted to take. Then I had a woman who was just so quick, so quick and so good helping us design the Baccalaureate program.

SCARPINO: I’m going to ask you about the Baccalaureate in a minute, but in addition to serving a population, those non-credit courses are a way of generating revenue.

MATUSAK: Oh yeah, definitely.

SCARPINO: That you didn’t have to start with.

MATUSAK: Exactly, exactly, and I had already bargained with Dr. Simmons that a certain amount of that money stays with me so that I could build the program. I said, “I’m not going to take it all, but I need to build the program.” But then it didn’t take more than two years when the dean of the engineering school and the dean of fine arts, Patrick, were realizing, “Hey, she’s making money for us.” And so they began influencing the rest of the university, the faculty, so that I wasn’t the bad lady.

SCARPINO: So what you didn’t keep went into the general fund?

MATUSAK: Yeah, right. So we did well. We did very well and we grew. And then there was no space and they didn’t want to give us any space. So we got an old building—and my memory’s gone of what they called it—but it was an old building and it had termites and all of that business.

SCARPINO: Here come the insects again.

MATUSAK: Yeah, right. But we got exterminators and we got the place going and we had more space to do what we wanted to do and a place for the students to meet and to talk to each other as well as to us. It was really thriving. But you know, as with anything, you talk about a failure—I don’t know if you want to call this a failure, but I’m always disappointed. The College of Alternative Programs was doing extremely well when I left. It’s gone now. No leadership. And that’s sad; that’s very, very sad.

SCARPINO: So how did you structure the Baccalaureate program?

MATUSAK: Well, I’m groping in my memory and I don’t have files with me now, and that is so long ago, in the 70’s, but the Baccalaureate program was structured so that we assessed each student, looked at what they had, two years from Kent State, and where they had worked, and what they thought they had learned on the job. And in that program what we did was accept the credits that they had elsewhere, and we designed the program then so that they could work either on their own or take courses at the university. But we first assessed their learning so that we could tell them, “This is what you have, now what do you want to do in order to achieve the rest of your goals?” And they could do that by communication, extension kind of thing, or coming to the university, but the details of it I can’t give you.

SCARPINO: Were their majors involved in this?

MATUSAK: Oh yeah, there were majors involved, because most of those students had started someplace. Think about those years; they had started someplace and they’d quit in order to get a good job and make money.

SCARPINO: And in those days, you could do that.

MATUSAK: Exactly. And then all of a sudden, they couldn’t do that and they knew they had to have a degree because they were at a stall. They could make no more progress within an organization. Most of them knew where they wanted to go and why, and so we designed it.

SCARPINO: So you focused on returning students?


SCARPINO: You accepted credits that they had taken elsewhere.


SCARPINO: You gave them credit for life experience.

MATUSAK: Right, not life experience—life learning.

SCARPINO: Life learning, and did they have to demonstrate it with a portfolio or something?

MATUSAK: Absolutely, absolutely.

SCARPINO: Then once you’ve done all of that, you figured out what they needed to do to complete a degree.

MATUSAK: Exactly.

SCARPINO: Some of that they could take on campus.


SCARPINO: How did they do the part that was not on campus?

MATUSAK: What do they call the courses that you take by mail?

SCARPINO: Distance learning?

MATUSAK: Yeah, distance learning kind of thing they could do.

SCARPINO: So it was the early equivalent of what we now call online courses, only they were mailing stuff in.

MATUSAK: Exactly, exactly, that’s right, because you weren’t online, the computers were not the common thing then.

SCARPINO: Did somebody run these mail courses?

MATUSAK: Oh yeah.

SCARPINO: You had faculty members that were doing it?

MATUSAK: No, you did.

SCARPINO: You as in you.

MATUSAK: Indiana University had a lot of those courses that they could mail in and so did University of Minnesota. The big universities had them and we built collaborations with them.

SCARPINO: Okay, so you didn’t actually have to create it yourself, you just had to use what somebody else…

MATUSAK: No, and direct them where they could get these courses.

SCARPINO: So you put all these pieces together; prior credits, life learning, the mail-in type pioneering distance learning, courses they could take on campus.


SCARPINO: Now, there were certain universities that were doing the pieces.

MATUSAK: Not then.

SCARPINO: I mean the individual pieces.

MATUSAK: Oh yes.

SCARPINO: There was somebody that was doing the mail-in, you could go to a university and sit in a classroom, but was there anybody who put it all together the way you did?

MATUSAK: No, no. We were the first. We were the very first. There was a woman, a Chancellor at Indiana University, and I couldn’t fall asleep because I was struggling to think of her name and I felt so awful because I couldn’t remember. You may when I tell you this. Whenever she answered the phone, she would say her name and she’d say, “I am a woman,” because she had a really low voice, very low voice. She was brilliant and wonderful and she wanted to create some of these changes at the university and I worked with her.

SCARPINO: Now this was in Bloomington?


SCARPINO: Yeah. I didn’t get to IU until 1986, so I’m sure that if she was still around I would have heard of her.

MATUSAK: Yes you would have. She was retired by then.

SCARPINO: So, did you realize—because a little bit of this sounds like what you were doing in Minnesota.


SCARPINO: And now you had more freedom because you’re the dean, you had an income stream and so on. Did you realize when you were doing this that you were way out on the cutting edge of adult education?

MATUSAK: No, you know, I didn’t think about it that way. I thought about again that I was making a difference for people who needed someone to help them achieve their goals. And yeah, I knew that I was on the cutting edge, I knew that, and I knew that I got beat up because I was at that cutting edge.

SCARPINO: By some of the colleagues on campus.

MATUSAK: Oh yeah, oh yeah, the traditionalists especially, but it was fun.

SCARPINO: Do you think that one of the qualities of being an effective leader is the ability to deal with opposition?

MATUSAK: Absolutely. Every group I’ve ever worked with, I have talked about the fact that there are going to be some people who like what you want to do and some people who hate it. And your most important thing as a good leader is, number one, learn to collaborate. Teach people how important interdependence is. We can’t get along without each other. Plan, and then act. That’s very important. Yes.

SCARPINO: I’m going to go back to something that we talked about yesterday, and that’s your definition of leadership that I copied out of something you wrote. Just for the benefit of anybody is only hearing the second half of this, you said, “I define leadership as the ability and passion to attain positive results by encouraging others and by working with and through others to achieve a common good. From my perspective, true leaders are courageous people. They are not afraid to take a risk and they don’t waste much time worrying about what other people think of them.” So, using that definition as a lens, how did you go about organizing this program on a campus where there was resistance?

MATUSAK: Winning people over, helping Dr. Garnett, the dean of Education. Deans of Education are usually very square, and add to the fact that he was very square education, he was a Marine. So put all that together. So I picked him out of all the Deans, and I felt if I can convince him, he is so respected, he’s looked upon as the next president of this institution, so if I can win him over and collaborate with him—I’ll do for him if he’ll do for me—we can get something done. And we did. And we had a good time together. He resisted at first. He resisted, and I just kept at him and kept at him, because I just felt I’d get the most mileage working with Dr. Garnett and the respect that he had.

SCARPINO: Did he ever figure out what you were doing?

MATUSAK: Yeah, he did. We had many a good scotch and laughter over all of that afterward. He was a wonderful guy, just wonderful, and very, very smart but very square, and so we sort of balanced each other when we did workshops, too. He died a couple of years ago. I lose all my best friends. That’s the hardest thing of growing older.


MATUSAK: Again, I was the only woman dean.

SCARPINO: An advantage or disadvantage?

MATUSAK: In the beginning it was a disadvantage. You asked me that question yesterday and I thought about it. And I said, “Well, I was always the only woman.” And so I like men, I get along with men, but they have to understand who I am and I won’t take a lot of their slights or guffs, etc. Patrick McDonough was number one. I’ll never forget. I was demanding something for the budget and he said, “Larraine,”—in the meeting now—“just calm down, calm down.” Two minutes later Patrick was shouting and yelling and I said, “Patrick, don’t be so emotional.” So then we had a good laugh. They would appear in my office; six deans, all men, and tell the secretary, “Tell the girl that we want to take her to lunch.” My secretary was so smart, she’d get on the intercom and she’d say, “Dr. Matusak, the boys are here.”

SCARPINO: (Laughing) Did they get it?

MATUSAK: Yeah, they got it, they got it. So you taught them through jest and love and caring, and they are all wonderful friends.

SCARPINO: Do you think that the world of leadership has changed for women who are there now?

MATUSAK: Yes, yes I do and I fear a little that many of the women who have gotten into leadership positions, number one, don’t support each other and, number two, they become so bullyish that they think that’s the way to succeed, and it bothers me.

SCARPINO: At Evansville, did you increase the student population?

MATUSAK: Oh yes, oh yes.

SCARPINO: Any idea of the magnitude?


SCARPINO: I don’t need exact numbers.

MATUSAK: There were hundreds of students coming on campus that had never been there before and that did two things. It not only brought in the money that they were doing—with the work they were doing in our working with them, but also we had new kids coming on campus; their kids were coming on campus. I don’t think that would have happened because ISUE was right there.


MATUSAK: Indiana State University Evansville.

SCARPINO: And now it’s I think the University of Evansville.

MATUSAK: No, the University of Evansville is where we were.

SCARPINO: I think they’ve changed their name. I should know that.

MATUSAK: They have changed their name. I should know it, too; I have an honorary doctorate from them.

SCARPINO: So, in bringing older students to campus, you also attracted their children as students.


SCARPINO: Did you see that coming?

MATUSAK: No. I didn’t even think about it. You know, I was so involved with CAEL and CAEL’s movement and developing the correct processes so that we would be legitimate in the world of higher ed that I didn’t see a lot of what was coming.

SCARPINO: When you look back at your time at Evansville, what do you consider to be your most significant accomplishment? What do you feel best about?

MATUSAK: I really feel that that college accomplished more in five years than the total university could have in ten. I’m very proud of that, and the numbers were there, and if I had those figures, I could tell you. But both in money and in terms of numbers, we were very, very successful. So, for me, that means that what was only a dream became a reality and I’m very proud of that.

SCARPINO: You were entrepreneurial enough to realize that in order to be successful as an educator, you’ve got to have the student credit hours and you need a revenue stream.

MATUSAK: Oh yeah, oh yeah.

SCARPINO: Do you think that’s a common recognition in the Academy?

MATUSAK: I think so, yeah, I think so.

SCARPINO: Okay, so I want to talk with you for a few minutes about the Council for Adult Experimental Leaning, which is CAEL, C-A-E-L, not like the greens that we eat, which was founded in 1974. You were one of the original board members, so I am concluding therefore that you were one of the creators of this organization.

MATUSAK: Yes, yes.

SCARPINO: What motivated you and others to create the Council for Adult Experimental Learning?

MATUSAK: The realization that there were others now beginning to tamper with the idea of assessing what students have learned, but they were talking about life experience instead of life learning experience. Morris Keeton, a wonderful, wonderful sage old man, he said, “We have to get unified in some way.”

SCARPINO: And Morris Keeton was where?

MATUSAK: At CAEL. Well, he was at the University of Maryland, but he was the founder of CAEL, and he said we have to become unified, there has to be a system that is recognized nationally that is acceptable to academia. And so I was on board with him with that. I agreed.

SCARPINO: What was the purpose of CAEL?

MATUSAK: The purpose of CAEL was to design a system of evaluation and then get out there and train universities and educators so that they can adapt proper processes at the universities. The community colleges were the number one to jump on the bandwagon. So we trained across the country; community, college, faculty, and leadership, if they hired us, to come and help them learn how to assess life learning experiences.

SCARPINO: So, various educational institutions, junior colleges, and universities paid you to come in and run workshops with them like consultants?

MATUSAK: Oh yeah, right, right, to work with faculty members.

SCARPINO: And you worked all over the country?

MATUSAK: All over the country.

SCARPINO: So it was like being a Sister again, where they handed you the note and off you went with a suitcase.

MATUSAK: That’s right, and again you see, this Dr. Simmons had my back because I was gone and so was Bob Garnett because he went with me. I would be gone for a couple of weeks at a time, but I had Roger and I had Rich, and I had another woman—I can’t remember her name…

SCARPINO: Rich Hansen…

MATUSAK: And so everything kept going. Well, a good leader should be able to leave and things are going to go on. So they went on. But we were across the country and of course Charles was proud of that and so was the president that we were the heart of a movement.

SCARPINO: And they understood that?

MATUSAK: Yes, they did, they did. The president did, the vice president did.

SCARPINO: How long were you involved…

MATUSAK: Five years…

SCARPINO: ..around the country doing that?

MATUSAK: Oh, doing that? Five years, yeah, a good five years. And that’s how Edison came around, really.

SCARPINO: That’s how they heard of you, through CAEL?


SCARPINO: What kind of an impact do you think that all those workshops that CAEL put on—I assume you didn’t do all of them—there are other people doing it.

MATUSAK: No, no, yeah.

SCARPINO: So what do you think the cumulative impact was with all of the proselytizing?

MATUSAK: I think what you see right now; the fact that many major universities, most have a process and that process has been put into place—if you go historically, it evolved from CAEL. So yeah, big impact.

SCARPINO: Transformative.

MATUSAK: Yeah, transformative.

SCARPINO: Your career continued to evolve at a rapid pace. From 1979 to 1982 you were the second president of the Thomas A. Edison State College of New Jersey, which I’m going to summarize as an innovative institution dedicated to serving mid-career adults. I’m going to mention that Rita Novitt helped me understand your time at Thomas Edison, and I certainly thank her for taking the time to talk to me.

MATUSAK: She’s got to be 96.

SCARPINO: I didn’t ask her how old she was (laughing), but she told me that she was retired and so on. She also then joined you at Kellogg as did several of the other folks that you had gathered up over the years.


SCARPINO: So, you believe that you came to the attention of Thomas Edison State College through your work at CAEL.


SCARPINO: You didn’t apply for the job.


SCARPINO: How did this come about?

MATUSAK: I got a call from the board chairman saying, “Would you please send your application for the presidency?” and I said, “No, I haven’t been a vice president, and I really like what I’m doing here and I’m not finished at Evansville.” And he said, “Send us your resume, please send your resume.” So I talked to Connie and I said, “I don’t want to stay at Evansville forever.” I didn’t like Evansville as a city. It’s very insulated. They’re more South than the South.

SCARPINO: It has a southern feel to it.

MATUSAK: Not only feel; language, food, everything. I had to learn a new vocabulary when we were down there. But anyway, I said, “I don’t want to stay here forever.” So I decided to toss it in. I tossed it in and I got called for an interview. Then, as I told you, it was a unanimous vote by the board and faculty and everyone. Some of my mentors told me, “Don’t take it; you can get something far better,” and Kent State was opening up. Allan Ostar was pushing me there, even way back then. I decided to take it because I saw it as a challenge, that it was evolving from what I believed in and it was a mess. It was really a terrible mess. The first president…

SCARPINO: You followed a really popular first president who had left a mess, as I understand it.

MATUSAK: Yes, well he had drunken fights on the floor of the legislature. He was a brilliant man who just got taken over by ills. So when I got there, and it was just several offices—I can’t remember the name of the place, but it was off Princeton campus—and I walked through the building and walked past the offices and I thought, oh my God. Every office was a mess with stacks of papers and looking like chaos. So my first meeting with the executives who were there, the vice presidents who had been appointed by Jim Brown, the first president, I asked them all to write their letters of resignation. I said, “I want all of your letters of resignation, you can put them in your drawer, but if I ask for them, you’ll have them ready.” And that was my meeting with them. Call it tough love if you want, but I said, “I want your offices cleaned up. They have to be cleaned up in a week. Get all those papers out.” “Well, we’ve got to do this”—“Clean up, clean up.” And then of course, I made those moves and we moved into the downtown offices and began. And yes, I did accept two resignations and rehired people. But it had a bad reputation, a bad smell, and again, there is a God. My very first meeting with the Budget Committee of Legislature, I came late, and all of the other presidents were sitting there waiting their turn while these guys were on the stage and one going in and out and…

SCARPINO: The legislators at a hearing, yes. I’ve done that.

MATUSAK: Okay, so I walked in and I was scared, I really was nervous. I’ve never had to do that kind of thing. I sat down and I think I sitting ten minutes with the whole slew of male presidents, one female, and somebody from the stage said, “Well, it’s getting very late, let’s hear from the lady.” So all these guys are waiting and they’re not called upon for their budgets and I’m getting called upon. I was prepared, but I think I was smart enough by that time—I’d been smacked around as the only lady, the only woman, the only woman—that when I got to the microphone, what I did was address the fact that all of these men were representing the state colleges of the state, and that they should be very proud of what they had accomplished and I have a budget and they have a budget, but first—and I went through some of the statistics of the colleges and then what I needed, but I didn’t leave them out. I kept them in. I became their best friend. And so, when I left Edison, it was too soon. I loved it. But I don’t know if—you probably didn’t come across it, but in the Trenton Times, they had a full-page article that one of the presidents wrote about what I did when I came there.

SCARPINO: I didn’t find the article in the Trenton Times, I admit that.

MATUSAK: I’ve got it at home. It’s hanging on the wall because it reminds me to be humble.

SCARPINO: Do you think that’s important for a leader?

MATUSAK: Absolutely.

SCARPINO: To have a certain amount of humble…

MATUSAK: Humility.

SCARPINO: Humility?

MATUSAK: Yes, yes, absolutely. Pride comes before the fall.

SCARPINO: This is another experimental situation, so you went from a degree program in an experimental situation at Minnesota, to a deanship where you had a chance to construct a program, to and an entire college. You’re sort of walking up the ladder here, the size of the institutions that you’re running.

MATUSAK: We had campuses all over the state, Edison did. They called them campuses. They were offices with people who did assessments and brought in students, etc. When I was there, we went from 2,000 or 3,000 students to about 6,000, if I remember correctly, 6,000 or 7,000 now. Well, George Pruitt followed me. Now, George Pruitt had been part of the training of trainers with CAEL. He followed me. He’s still there. And I understand that there are 30,000-some students now. He’s doing a wonderful job.

SCARPINO: Doesn’t he have a doctoral degree in nursing, as I recall?


SCARPINO: So, here you are. You’ve got this experimental college, you have this opportunity, the popular president, number one, left a mess. You’ve got people who clearly appear to be having a problem with at least understanding the importance of image because the place looked a mess, and so on and so forth.

MATUSAK: They laughed at us, yeah.

SCARPINO: How did you go about righting the ship?

MATUSAK: Well, number one, I had enough self-pride in myself. There has to be some pride; you have to believe in what you’re doing and I believed in what I was doing and I believed in the college. I believed in what the college had to do. I also believed, because I had sat down with Jim Brown several times at meetings, that he had really good ideas and I felt so sad that he had allowed himself to deteriorate the way he did and that we were going to right it. So by hiring the right people, and firing the right people, and spending a lot of time visiting all my centers and the other state colleges around the state, I was able to eventually—I really did raise the estimation of people about the college and what it could do and how they could use it. I think one of the wonderful things that happened is that a very, very brilliant man came to our college and wanted a degree in physics, and he had very few credits. I said, “Okay, let’s reach out to the best we have in New Jersey.” So we got a professor from Princeton, we got a professor from Rutgers, and we got one more professor, and I can’t remember—one of the northern state colleges. We had them come in, we told them what the gentleman was asking for, and would they do the assessment? Well, they sat down with him and they spent a whole morning and I was chewing my nails wondering what’s going to happen because we had our faculty involved, too, our own faculty. When they left the room, my faculty was grinning ear-to-ear and I thought, what happened? And then the Princeton professor came out and said, “That man deserves a doctorate in physics.”

SCARPINO: I assume he didn’t get one right away.

MATUSAK: No, he did not, but he got the credits that he wanted toward a degree. He was just brilliant and had studied on his own. So, certain things that took place get into the community, people hear it, they find out about it, and so the respect for the college rises.

SCARPINO: So, once again you’re serving nontraditional students, and for the benefit of somebody who just wanders into this, how was that program structured?

MATUSAK: Oh boy.

SCARPINO: Just in a general way.

MATUSAK: Yeah, very, very, complex, but again, it was very comparable to what we did at Evansville. Most of the students coming in had some credits from someplace and they want to achieve their degree and they can’t do it in a traditional institution because they have families, they can’t take the time off, etc. So it was designed so that they could do distance learning as well as assessment of what they had learned on their jobs, if they had jobs.

SCARPINO: Distance learning in those days was still the mail-in stuff, correct?

MATUSAK: That’s right. It was still the mail-in, and we were still mail-in, too. So many faculty could work with us, but they were mail-in. It was a strong structure in terms of demands on the student. There were no shortcuts. You’re going to have to do this at your time, and so sometimes it took them longer. I know one guy who didn’t—I left Edison and he was still working on his degree and then wrote me, “Whoopee, I made it!” six years later. But, he did it.

SCARPINO: So, it begins with obviously a potential student expresses an interest, you do an assessment, you assess life learning, you assess whatever courses they’ve taken before, you give them credit for that, but you didn’t really have a faculty that was teaching classes. So they had to go somewhere else.

MATUSAK: Yeah, we had faculty from other universities who were doing the teaching.

SCARPINO: Did they teach for you or did the student take a class at the other university?

MATUSAK: For us or at the other university. It depended.

SCARPINO: So, in a way that program was kind of like a broker.

MATUSAK: Yes, absolutely. That’s a good word but I’d hate it for education.

SCARPINO: No, no, I didn’t mean that in a pejorative way, I mean, there was a lot of brokering that had to go on to make it work.

MATUSAK: Oh absolutely, absolutely. Now, I think there are more requirements of onsite and so Edison has their students coming and doing onsite workshops, etc. I only began that. And what I wanted to do by the time I got to that third year was achieve 10-year accreditation, which I did before I left. I remember George Pruitt call me saying, “Thank you for what you left me.”

SCARPINO: When you got there, because it sounds to me like what you did was to partially replicate what you’d done at Evansville…


SCARPINO: That was not the program you inherited.

MATUSAK: No, no.

SCARPINO: So whatever you inherited kind of got pushed aside.

MATUSAK: Well, it didn’t get pushed aside, but it had fallen into such shambles that if you looked at it you would say—it’s what I said anyway—“I don’t know how much I can resurrect because it’s such a disgrace. So I’ve got to create something newer and better, keep what we can keep, and see if we can get it looking as though it’s really professional and developed, and work with that.”

SCARPINO: And it worked?

MATUSAK: It worked. It worked, but it was hard. It was very, very hard. I remember sitting in a daze at that desk wondering why I ever took the job because the chancellor was on my back and…

SCARPINO: Now, this is the chancellor for the entire state system.

MATUSAK: Yes, yes.

SCARPINO: So you had certain constituencies that you had to persuade.

MATUSAK: Oh absolutely.

SCARPINO: State legislature, chancellor, who else?

MATUSAK: The governor. I remember getting a call from the governor that he wants to see me immediately and I didn’t know what was up. When I went to see him, what the whole thing was, that there was somebody who was his best friend who didn’t get the credits he thought he wanted. We had a wonderful peaceful debate, but I just refused. And I think refusing to give him the credits he wanted may have given me a blow in my budget, but not in my sense of what I believed in.

SCARPINO: So, who was the governor?

MATUSAK: You know what? I don’t remember his name. I tried last night to recall his name, and I do not remember his name. Rita would remember, but I don’t, because the boards were appointed by the governor.

SCARPINO: Actually, if it makes you feel better, she didn’t remember either, but we can look that up; we have the dates. So if somebody wants to know, they can look it up.

MATUSAK: He was a pretty good guy.

SCARPINO: Eventually did you win the governor over?

MATUSAK: I think I did, I think so, although I said I dented my budget. I think I got penalized and he showed me how he could penalize me by not giving credits to his friend, but it wasn’t that serious and I could get money elsewhere. At Edison I always said, everything you hear about New Jersey politics is true. You are playing with politics all the time. I never entertained so much in my life as I did there and they really drink. It was a game I learned that I liked. I didn’t know I liked politics and I learned I was good at it and I learned to play it. And I say New Jersey was a fascinating lesson for me, learning, growth of my own, personally.

SCARPINO: So the entertaining was for the legislature, their staff, their governor and his staff?

MATUSAK: Oh yeah, oh yes. It’s expected.

SCARPINO: The chancellor?

MATUSAK: Oh yeah, oh yeah. Oh, the games with the chancellor, I’ll tell you about one of them. He was so, I’m going to say angry, that we successfully got the building downtown and moved into it and we were right next door almost to where George Washington came in and rushed the Hessians out, etc., downtown; a wonderful old, old building. And he all of a sudden out of the blue sent word that he wants to take over the whole first floor—it was a semi-basement, garden level—because he needed it for accountants or somebody. We had all of our student incoming, all of that stuff was down there, bookstore, everything was down there. And I said, “We don’t have any space for you.” He said, “I want that whole garden level.” So, okay, what do I do? This is New Jersey. So I called the head of our maintenance, a wonderful young black man, and I said, “Clear out all the rooms on the garden level; the governor wants those rooms.” He looked at me and said, “What are we going to do?” I said, “I don’t know. Clear it all out and put it all in the hallway, just pack it all in the hallway.” All the brochures and mailings and catalogs and all that stuff, I said, “Put them all in the hallway.” So he worked with the team and they got it all done in half a week I think. And then he said, “Now, what do we do?” I said, “Now, I want you to call the fire department.” Which he did and we got the red ticket and we could not do that, could not have the hallways all botched up with our stuff. Long story short, the chancellor never moved in. We kept our rooms. But I had to manipulate.

SCARPINO: So, one more time, you line the students up and threatened to march them out of the building. You were doing the same thing.

MATUSAK: Yeah, that’s right, but I called the fire department instead. So you learn to play those politics. I was innocent.

SCARPINO: Did you realize when you got there that you could be that good at it?

MATUSAK: No, no I did not.

SCARPINO: You know, I don’t think we put in the record what community Edison is in. What’s the city?

MATUSAK: Trenton. Right down in Trenton.

SCARPINO: I know that, but I don’t think we ever actually said it. When you look back at the time that you spent there, which was just three years…

MATUSAK: Too short.

SCARPINO: What do you feel best about?

MATUSAK: Simplistically I’ll just say I feel best about cleaning up the college.

SCARPINO: Literally and figuratively.

MATUSAK: Both, yes, correct. And secondly, getting it recognized nationally as well as within the state as a reputable, excellent organization. I’m very proud of that. We were known in Washington, and I got appointed to the AASCU Board, and the whole thing I think evolved from Edison rising up out of the dust and becoming what it really had become, should have become under Jim Brown.

SCARPINO: As a result of your leadership?


SCARPINO: And AASCU is what?

MATUSAK: AASCU is the National Association of State College and University Presidents.

SCARPINO: Based in Washington, DC?

MATUSAK: Washington, DC.

SCARPINO: And as a result of your work at Edison, you were appointed to their board?


SCARPINO: And so what is the purpose of that organization?

MATUSAK: It brings all of the state college presidents together a couple of times a year and there are exclusive meetings, because presidents have problems they can’t share with a lot of people, but they can share with each other and learn from each other. So that’s its whole purpose. Allan Ostar was the head of that organization for years and years. Even after I went to Kellogg, which was kind of funny because I almost took it, he really pushed that I be the next president of AASCU. I think I was at Kellogg about six years when he was retiring and sent word, “We’d like you to apply.”

SCARPINO: But serving on that board is another leadership position.

MATUSAK: Pardon?

SCARPINO: Serving on AASCU’s board is another leadership position.

MATUSAK: Oh yes, yes, and I enjoyed it. I really enjoyed it. And I enjoyed being president. I enjoyed everything I’ve done in my life so far. I can’t say that there was anything that I was totally miserable doing.

SCARPINO: It’s important, isn’t it, to like what you do?

MATUSAK: Yes, it is, it is. I can’t imagine getting up in the morning, hating to go to work. I can’t imagine that.

SCARPINO: That changes the way you look at the world, doesn’t it, when you like what you do and look forward to it?

MATUSAK: Yeah, right, right.

SCARPINO: So, one more time, you did not apply for a job.


SCARPINO: But you did accept the position at W.K. Kellogg Foundation in Battle Creek.


SCARPINO: Served as a program officer, leadership scholar, directed and augmented the Kellogg National Fellowship Program. You were responsible for all the grant making in the area of leadership and you served as the foundation’s first Leadership Scholar.

I’m going mention Russell Mawby and Robert DeVries as people who helped me understand this part of your career.


SCARPINO: I understand that your connection to the Council for Adult Experimental Learning (CAEL) is what brought you to the attention of Kellogg, that one of the founders of CAEL was Morris Keeton?


SCARPINO: Who was president of Antioch College?


SCARPINO: And he called you to the attention of Russ Mawby who then called you.

MATUSAK: Yeah, I have no idea. I really don’t have any idea.

SCARPINO: That’s what one of the people told me. It was probably Russ who told me that.


SCARPINO: So, in any event, you came, one more time through your work with CAEL, to the attention of someone who was looking for an executive.

MATUSAK: I think I would correct that a little bit because just after you said it, I remembered. I was at an AASCU conference, all the presidents, and Allan came up to me, Allan Ostar, and said, “See that guy with the funny tie?” And there was this big, tall, jock-looking guy, and he never did his tie completely, he just flapped it over, and I said, “Yeah.” He said, “That’s Pete Ellis. That’s Dr. Ellis. He’s from the Kellogg Foundation and Russ Mawby always uses him as his scout and he’s got his eye on you. Don’t pay any attention to him.”

SCARPINO: (Laughing) That’s probably like telling the child not to reach into the cookie jar.

MATUSAK: Exactly, exactly. But anyway, I went about my own business, having a good time with the other presidents, etc., and then this man with the funny tie asked me if he could have lunch with me and I said, “Sure.” So we had lunch together and he talked about Kellogg and talked about Russ Mawby and what they’re doing. And I said, “Well, that’s wonderful, I didn’t know you were doing all that work with adult learning and continuing education, etc.” And I went my merry way. But he was scouting and Russ used him as his scout. And you know, we got a lot better people at the foundation with Pete Ellis doing the scouting than we ever have with these search committees. So it’s interesting.

SCARPINO: Right. Things were done differently in those days.

MATUSAK: Oh yeah.

SCARPINO: One thing that occurred to me though, is that particularly with this story that I assume is at least partially true about CAEL and Morris Keeton and so on, calling your attention to Russ Mawby who probably then sent his scout out to look at you…


SCARPINO: It seems to me that a professional network was one of the things that helped create an opportunity for you.

MATUSAK: I think so, yes.

SCARPINO: Do you think that professional networks are an important quality of a good leader?

MATUSAK: Yes I do. I do. It’s for many purposes, a professional network, but on all levels, in depth and no quite so in depth, but again it’s my belief in collaboration, interdependence and the belief that we all depend upon each other in order to succeed. So, I feel interdependent with the students I work with. There’s a need there. I can give you a good example of that, but I don’t know if we want to put it on tape.

SCARPINO: That’s up to you.

MATUSAK: Well, I’ll just dash back and give you an example of how somebody else taught this. I was teaching a class on an ecosystem at the University of Minnesota. There were probably 225 students, and we talked about interdependence. And a black man in the back row raised his hand and I said, “Yes?” He said, “I got where I am by myself. I worked hard, I fought hard, and here I am and I’m working on a degree and I did it by myself.” A black woman in the first row resorted to her black vernacular, and I knew her, she didn’t talk this way, she turned around and she shouted at him, “Man, was you born or was you hatched? Because if you were hatched, you did it yourself; if you were born, you had lots of help.” And the class roared. And I thought, what do I do? And I said, “We’ll continue now,” and I just continued the class, but he shrank in his seat and I think she taught him a lesson and she taught me a lesson. We’re interdependent.

SCARPINO: Yes. It’s an interesting life lesson out of an ecology course, isn’t it?

MATUSAK: Exactly.

SCARPINO: So, you were contacted by Russ Mawby three times?

MATUSAK: Yes, yes.

SCARPINO: Twice you said no.


SCARPINO: So eventually you agreed to go there for an interview.

MATUSAK: A talk, yes.

SCARPINO: You were going to give a talk?

MATUSAK: Yes, yes.

SCARPINO: Okay. How did that go?

MATUSAK: It went very well. It was a small group; I expected a larger group and it was at the old building of the foundation and he had all of the staff in there, not support staff, but the professional staff. I was very aware that there weren’t any women in there. There was a nurse, that’s it. I gave my, what I believed should be happening in higher education, what wasn’t happening, what would happen with the correct direction and money in order to get it done. And then we had breakfast, when I had my bacon and eggs and they had their Raisin Bran, and I saw that immediately and felt, okay, am I going to be able to change who I am to work in this place? And I made up my mind, no, I couldn’t change who I am.

SCARPINO: You haven’t really done that, have you?

MATUSAK: No. And would I want to work there? And Russ is so charming.

SCARPINO: Yes, he is.

MATUSAK: And Bob Sparks was an amazing man. He’s a doctor and just a wonderful man, and I thought, what should I do? And then the salary they offered me was so much more than I was making. I mean, thousands more.

SCARPINO: More than a university president was making.

MATUSAK: Oh yeah, oh yeah. And the fact that I got a late start in life and I was 39 going on 40 and I was making $13,000; something’s got to happen. And I knew sooner or later I have to worry about retirement, etc.

SCARPINO: So, as a university president, you were making $13,000?

MATUSAK: No, no, that was at University of Minnesota.

SCARPINO: All right, okay, that sounds better.

MATUSAK: As a president, I was making $55,000. Even then, I mean, hey, compared to what they’re getting now. So I was offered thousands more and so I decided I’m going to do it. Connie and I talked and took deep breaths because we loved New Jersey. We loved it. And I said, “I’m going.” And she didn’t have a job of course. But the interesting thing, each time, we never decided to live together continuously, but every single time—I got offered the job at Evansville, she was at the dinner they had for me, the chairman of the television company was there and he offered her the job of manager of the TV station on the spot. So, something happened each time so that she could use her talents.

SCARPINO: So they brought you in there, and you gave a talk about higher education.


SCARPINO: But when they hired you, it was in the area of leadership.


SCARPINO: At what point did you realize that’s what they were really after?

MATUSAK: Well, I knew that they wanted leadership, but I didn’t know what leadership was. I was doing it and that’s what they recognized, but until I began to dig into it and saw what was going on, again with the leadership program, the Fellowship program—they had three classes of Fellows and nothing but strife within those three groups of Fellows and what was leadership. I began reading and talking and visiting people and one of the people you mentioned, what’s his name? You mentioned that he started to cry when you… come on, pull a name…


MATUSAK: Yeah, Max DePree, went to visit him and looked at the authors and I visited with Bennis, Warren Bennis.

SCARPINO: Did you know Warren Bennis?

MATUSAK: No I didn’t.

SCARPINO: You called him up and said “I’d like to talk to you.”

MATUSAK: Exactly, and he was very, very benevolent, really nice. We talked and he put me on his board.

SCARPINO: His board was what?

MATUSAK: It was a leadership board at the university there. So I was on his board and I got to know him really well, close friends. I said, “Yeah, I like this idea of leadership and helping to train others to become leaders; how do you do it?” Nobody had any idea how you do it. I’d say, “Well, that’s management, everybody knows how to call a meeting, etc.” The more I read and read and read, I then put my own ideas together on what leadership was all about. And then I had fun designing the Kellogg Fellowship program, changing what it was, making it more…

SCARPINO: So, in 1982, after you…

MATUSAK: I almost left Kellogg. I almost left Kellogg; I almost didn’t stay.

SCARPINO: Right after you got there?

MATUSAK: Yeah, I think I was there three or four months and I said to Connie, “I’m bored to tears.”

SCARPINO: So how would you assess the state of leadership training in those days?

MATUSAK: There wasn’t any. I mean, you go to any university and there wasn’t any, and if you tried to say that leadership can be taught and learned, they would say, “No it can’t; you’re born, you’re either a leader or you’re not.” And I really disagree violently with that. But that’s the way it was then. So it took some time to convince even at the foundation to have a leadership grant-making area. It didn’t happen right away, that didn’t happen right away.

SCARPINO: You started with the Fellows program.


SCARPINO: Which was a mess.

MATUSAK: Yes. And that was going and then it started being very successful, extremely successful. Then I started pushing; I wanted grant-making in leadership and the foundation was going to give me one hell of a time, “No, no, no, we don’t want to do that, we don’t want to do that.” It’s interesting because now they’re going back to it again. In fact, they want to interview me next week for a couple of hours on what my concepts are, what are the lessons learned in leadership.

SCARPINO: You could practice with me. So, one more time, you took on a position that was sort of there, but was a mess. You realized when you were agreeing to do this that you were in fact a leader. So that’s kind of the ah-ha moment; you realized I’ve been doing this.

MATUSAK: Right, right, yes.

SCARPINO: Self-taught and all of that stuff. How did you go about restructuring the Fellows program that existed but was a little bit like the dirty offices of the incompetent people that you found when you got to Edison?

MATUSAK: It was a lot harder, because Russ Mawby saw it as his baby. That’s why I said I almost left the foundation because everything I wanted to do, everything I felt needed to be done, I had to take to him. Everything had to go through him. So I couldn’t do it, I couldn’t do it at six months—I don’t know what it was—but I went to him and I said, “You hired me to do a job, but you won’t let me do it. I have to have the authority in order to make these changes and not have to be running to you for every permission to blow my nose. No, I can’t do it. I didn’t leave a presidency to become your administrative assistant. That’s what I basically am, the way you’re having it right now.” So we had some serious conversations.

SCARPINO: And you were teaching him about leadership in the process, by the way.

MATUSAK: Oh yeah, oh yes. Well, I’ll never forget though at my retirement party with this whole big thing, he stands up and he said “The foundation could never be the same again.” And he knelt, and he was really funny, but there were no women on the board. I was just an oddity. I was a support staff and I couldn’t tolerate that. So I was ready to leave. But he reluctantly said, “Okay, do what you think you need to do. Let me know what you’re doing.” I said, “I will, after I find out if it works or not.”

SCARPINO: So, finally he sort of gives you your leadership head, what did you do? How did you go about restructuring that program that really became kind of a flagship program?

MATUSAK: It is; it was and has been, and now they’re trying to redesign some, and they’re not having good luck with it. But what did I do? I just looked at what we had, looked at the selection process, that was number one. How do we go about selecting these people? We’ve got to change it. It isn’t just an application and somebody writes in that they want to do a project. We’ve got to change all that and we have to look for people who have a passion to make a difference. That’s harder to find. And so restructuring it, we had application forms that they had to fill out and I would hire a team of people to come and read them, because we got 1,000 applications for 30 to 50 spots. They’d read those and sort them out. And I said, “What are we looking for? Somebody who has a passion to make a difference.” Well, then you’re interviewing them, and there, too, what I did was take three to four people with me so that it wasn’t just the foundation. There was maybe Rita Novitt and educators and maybe a professional businessman, etc., to interview. And the coaching for the interview, I spent a full-day seminar talking about, with these people, what we’re looking for, why we’re looking for it and what are some of the questions we can ask them that will not be so canned that they practice for interviews.

SCARPINO: Do you remember one of those questions?

MATUSAK: Oh yeah, oh yeah. I’ll give you a couple of them, but the one that I would toss out is: “What if we said, forget about the Fellowship program, Phil. We just think you’re so good that Kellogg is going to give you the money to have a special dinner with people from all over the world, any six people you want, outstanding people, no matter the cost, and have dinner with them. What would you talk about?” And many times, we would blow people out of the water with that question, and many times you would cry almost because they would talk about who they wanted to be there. The one that was really funny was, she said, “Well, I would like Baryshnikov and I would like Ronald Reagan, because then while they’re fighting, I would I would run off with the ballet guy.”

SCARPINO: Baryshnikov was the ballet guy.

MATUSAK: Well, I meant Brez…

SCARPINO: Brezhnev.

MATUSAK: Brezhnev. And I’ll run off with the ballet guy. So we just roared! Another one I would give a question to: “If we thought you were so good, and that planet Earth is just a mess and we’re never going to be able to right all the wrongs, sociological kinds of things, and so we have to get you to Mars with a team of people to start a whole new colony. Who would you take, why would you take them, and how would you start the structure?” It blew them out of the water. They came with canned answers to canned interview questions. So we were really able to find out who the people were. Now, our president at that time at the foundation was Norm Brown and he was very suspicious of the process. So he came as one of the interviewers and we had a real difficult discussion about one of the candidates. I thought she was a fake right away and some of the others on the team thought she was a fake, and Norm Brown thought she was God’s gift to mankind. She had written poetry, and she had a recommendation from the head of a foundation in Ohio, etc. I finally said, “Okay, let’s not argue any more. What I will do after we’re through with interviews today is I will call the president of the foundation and ask if he wrote this recommendation and what he thinks of this person. I will also check on that poetry because I am positive I’ve read it someplace else. Agree? If I’m wrong, okay, we’ll accept her.” Well, it was all forged. The letter he had never written and besides that, she had copied the poem from a poet, some astronaut or somebody wrote and she claimed that it was hers. And further recommendations in her file never should have been there because those people never wrote those recommendations. I don’t know, I have a good feeling for people.

SCARPINO: Well, it also seems that those questions you were asking were to test how well a person could think in unexpected situations.

MATUSAK: Exactly.

SCARPINO: Is that a mark of someone with leadership potential?

MATUSAK: Yes, absolutely. I think that a person who is in the leadership position needs to recognize what my mother said way back when, that everybody has a gift, and try to find what that gift is.

SCARPINO: So you restructured this program and it had certain elements to it. A person could not do a project in their own discipline.

MATUSAK: Exactly.

SCARPINO: They had to agree to come to a certain number of seminars.


SCARPINO: What else were you asking them to do?

MATUSAK: Well, they had to design this learning plan which was very important, and they had to come to the seminars and participate in the seminars. There, too, I don’t know if anybody told you that, but our seminars were very different. For example, we had a seminar in education in Washington, DC. But we started out the seminars talking about, you’re going to hear about the best we have in education and the worst we have in education. And by the end of the week, it’s up to you to select a team from your numbers to come and sit before Kennedy’s Committee on Education and tell him what you saw, what you learned, and what needs to be done. So there was always a task at hand. It wasn’t just sit and listen to talking heads. So they did that. And Kennedy asked them all to come back to the full Committee because they were so good.

SCARPINO: And this was…

MATUSAK: In Washington.

SCARPINO: Robert Kennedy? John Kennedy?

MATUSAK: No, Edward.

SCARPINO: Edward Kennedy, all right. Okay, so when he was a Senator.


SCARPINO: Senator Kennedy.

MATUSAK: Right, right. So seminars were not just talking heads. There was something they had to do each time from those seminars.

SCARPINO: And that was an important part of the leadership experience?

MATUSAK: Absolutely, absolutely. Now, getting them to design a project—you know, they say that kids up to sixth grade are very creative, and after that we channel them? And getting them to design a project that had nothing to do with their discipline sometimes was like pulling teeth. We had one hospital administrator—I don’t know how many times I said no to his learning plan. I thought he was going to kill me. He was getting angrier and angrier. And then finally he said, “Well, you know, I wouldn’t have half the messes in my emergency room if cars would have airbags.” They didn’t have airbags at that time. And I said, “Okay,” and he said, “Somebody needs to do a documentary on that kind of thing.” And I said, “Well, so why don’t you do it?” He said, “I can’t even hold a camera, my wife takes all the pictures.” I said, “So learn.” Anyway to make a long story short on that one, he did, and he got an Emmy for his documentary and he’s the head of a foundation in California now.

SCARPINO: Good heavens! Do you remember his name?

MATUSAK: Pardon?

SCARPINO: Do you remember his name?

MATUSAK: No, but I will, I will.

SCARPINO: It’s all right.

MATUSAK: But I had a lot of stories like that I could tell you, I think.

SCARPINO: So, when you finally agreed to stay, when you had your…

MATUSAK: Get my authority, yes.

SCARPINO: What did you hope to accomplish? You sort of have a history of being in places where you think you can make a difference. What difference did you think you could make?

MATUSAK: Well, I thought the difference I could make was going to be one in society because I suddenly discovered that I was at a place where I wasn’t asking for money anymore. I was thoughtfully—it’s harder giving money away, and if I could do my job right and design a leadership program that would change what was going on in society by developing good leaders, I was in a really powerful position.

SCARPINO: Any idea how many Fellows passed through that program while you were in charge of it?

MATUSAK: Oh yeah, yeah, because I’m going to say a good 800 and some, close to 900 Fellows.

SCARPINO: So the multiplier effect was significant.

MATUSAK: Oh absolutely. Well, KFLA now is the Alumni association. I’ll be doing a keynote for them in October.

SCARPINO: KFLA is the Kellogg Fellows Leadership Alliance.

MATUSAK: Kellogg Fellows Leadership Alliance and it takes all of the fellowship programs and it sort of destroyed what Martha wanted, but it took the fellowship program’s alumni, if you can call it that, but other fellowship programs the foundation had run, and they weren’t fellowship programs—they were money, go get your degree kind of thing—and so they are involved as well.

SCARPINO: When you look back on that part of your job at Kellogg, the Fellowship program, what do you consider to be your most significant accomplishment?

MATUSAK: The decision-making process about who’s going to be in the program, the people that we selected who didn’t even know they had a high potential for leadership but they had a passion to make a difference. They didn’t know what leadership was and we taught them what it was. I feel very strongly that was my greatest success, that I have this entourage of people out there who are really making a difference, and they are. It’s pretty amazing.

SCARPINO: You and Russ Mawby retired relative close…

MATUSAK: About a year.

SCARPINO: What happened to that program after both of you retired?

MATUSAK: Well, it continued and Roger Sublett was the leader. The problem is that Roger sometimes gets a little bit antagonistic and he antagonized the CEO and the CEO decided he didn’t need the program. That was the president of former Johns Hopkins. He regrets it now. I’ll meet him at some doing, at a symphony or something, and he’ll say, “Never was anything like that Fellowship program when you brought those Fellows to Chicago, blah, blah, blah.” But it’s gone. Now, they’re trying to recreate it in a different way, but it had a lack of true leaders. It was sad that it fell apart.

SCARPINO: In addition to the Fellowship program, you also eventually were in charge of the grants in the area of leadership.


SCARPINO: I understand those were institutional grants?


SCARPINO: What was the goal of that program?

MATUSAK: Well, it wasn’t just—yeah, I can say it was institutional because we didn’t give to individuals.

SCARPINO: That’s what I meant. I couldn’t apply and get a grant from there. It would have to be the university.

MATUSAK: No, that’s right. Well, what we wanted to get through to people both on the professional level as well as on the civic level is that leadership can be taught and learned. So the monies that we gave to the universities were for programs, recognizing in a degree program or else in a leadership center that leadership can be taught and learned and that they were willing to do that. That it is a discipline. That it is a discipline. It wasn’t at that point.

SCARPINO: That’s really one of the things that you helped to shape with your ability to award grants and so on.


SCARPINO: How did that square with—I mean there were people writing about leadership at that time; James MacGregor Burns, Warren Bennis, there were other people, you talked to Max DePree. How did your ideas on leadership square with what they were writing?

MATUSAK: Well, what bothered me about all of those folks was they weren’t talking to the practitioners. They were talking to each other, some of them, but they weren’t talking to practitioners. They weren’t helping to convey their knowledge except with their books, and who reads their books except more academics? So, I brought them together and with money—I guess there were about 45 at the first meeting, 45, maybe 50, I’m not sure—but brought them together to start talking about how can you as scholars begin to talk to people who are the practitioners, some who accept what you write and some say you’re all wrong because they’re out there in the field doing.


MATUSAK: And oh my God. That was very, very difficult because we had people like—I can just see him now and I can’t pull his name out—screaming at the Fellow from Princeton, who is still there. He’s a violinist and his grandparents were famous violinists. I’ll think of the name; it’ll come. I’m sorry.

SCARPINO: It’s all right.

MATUSAK: But anyway, just yelling at each other, just screaming at each other. I thought this is never going to work. No wonder we have this discord between practitioners and scholars.

SCARPINO: You were both a funder and founder of the Kellogg Leadership Scholars Program (KLSP) and it was the KLSP that brought together this first group of 45 to 50 scholars, or did you have practitioners there too?


SCARPINO: So you wanted the scholars to figure out mechanisms for connecting with the practitioners.

MATUSAK: Exactly, exactly.

SCARPINO: I mean you were asking them “so what?”

MATUSAK: Well, yeah.

SCARPINO: Why does anybody care about what you’re doing?

MATUSAK: Exactly.

SCARPINO: Did you ever put it that way?

MATUSAK: My famous words are “so what?” They told me they’re going to put that on my gravestone because I’d ask the Fellows after they designed a learning plan and I’d say, “And so what? What’s going to be different because you did that? How are you going to create change?”

SCARPINO: So you took all of these, some really famous people…

MATUSAK: Prima donnas.

SCARPINO: And you asked them “so what?”

MATUSAK: That’s right.

SCARPINO: I bet they hadn’t answered that question in a while, had they?

MATUSAK: No, they had not, and they were such prima donnas.

SCARPINO: Was James MacGregor Burns there?

MATUSAK: Yes, he was.

SCARPINO: Warren Bennis?

MATUSAK: Yes, yeah, Warren Bennis, James MacGregor Burns, all those guys were there, all the authors, etc.; Stockdale—not Stockdale, he wasn’t there. But the fellow from Princeton was there and, gosh, I see faces and I can’t pull all the names out, but they were raucous times. That first meeting, I thought I’d never have another one.

SCARPINO: Was that at Battle Creek?

MATUSAK: No, the first meeting was at Maryland.


MATUSAK: Jepson? No, Jepson was the second meeting.

SCARPINO: As I recall, Richard Couto was at that first meeting and he was at Jepson.

MATUSAK: Right, right, okay, yeah, he and Hickman, Gill Hickman was there, yeah. I remember that.

SCARPINO: So who got to pick the 45 or 50 scholars who…



MATUSAK: With Georgia Sorenson. I sat down with her.

SCARPINO: And Georgia was a faculty member at the University of Maryland?

MATUSAK: Yes. Well, she ran the center that she had there.

SCARPINO: Leadership Center.

MATUSAK: It was the Women’s Center at first and then it became a Leadership Center, yeah.


MATUSAK: And I sat down with her and we looked at some of the names and people, etc., and who needed to be there, and we came up with the number of people and Barbara Kellerman was there.


MATUSAK: At that time she was in Massachusetts.

SCARPINO: Was she at Harvard?

MATUSAK: No, not yet, not yet, though she went to Harvard afterward. But anyway, the first several meetings, I was worn out. I didn’t think it was going to work and then it slowly began to evolve. Again, it takes money and if I hadn’t been at the foundation, I couldn’t do that. There wouldn’t be the money to bring them together.

SCARPINO: So you gave them at least one grant.

MATUSAK: Oh yeah, oh yeah. Then we sat down and said, “Now, what can we do so that we have practitioners working with the scholars, learning from them and the scholars learning what they’re not doing and putting into their work that the practitioners think need to be there?” There’s still that struggle going on. There’s still a struggle. I think it’ll be a never-ending struggle with scholars and practitioners, and scholars fussing that we don’t have enough scholars at the meetings and practitioners saying there are too many scholars and not enough people who are out there doing the work. So, anyway, that’s kind of a fun battle that’s going on. But it took years; this didn’t happen overnight. It took years.

SCARPINO: Rule number one of doing oral history is never ask for a date, but I’m going to violate that rule. Do you remember what year that was?

MATUSAK: I don’t. In the mid ’80s we started.

SCARPINO: Okay, I can—that’s a discoverable fact.

MATUSAK: Yeah, in the mid ’80s we started. Then everything evolved and then Kellerman decided that one of the best ways we could reach out would be to have a national conference and bring practitioners together with some scholars. At that time, I was a little bit resistant because I think so many of those national conventions are a waste of time. But we worked on it and we had the first one and it was very successful.

SCARPINO: Where did that take place?

MATUSAK: I think it was Atlanta.


MATUSAK: I think so, but again, my memory; forgive me.

SCARPINO: So you went from basically groups of scholars that you were trying to get to figure out a way to connect their scholarships to the practitioners to a conference that brought the two groups together.


SCARPINO: And you were at that conference?

MATUSAK: Oh yes.

SCARPINO: Were you satisfied with the way it went?

MATUSAK: Yes I was, very satisfied. In fact, I was elated at what had taken place. I was really pleased. Some of the scholars weren’t as pleased as I was, but I expected that and I figured they’d come around, and they did for the most part, most of them did. And they enjoyed coming to the meetings. But it was a tough time. I would say that my work at the Kellogg Foundation and with leadership and leadership scholars was probably the biggest challenge of my career, the biggest challenge.

SCARPINO: Just trying to get the ball on a common task.

MATUSAK: Right, right.

SCARPINO: So you had this meeting in Atlanta, and then that was a step on the road to creating the International Leadership Association.

MATUSAK: Right, that is correct. And then, the political strife, inner political strife kind of thing takes place, and Georgia Sorenson resigned her position and Barbara Kellerman decided that she’s taking the whole thing—all the leadership scholars and everything that I had given money for—she’s taking it with her and she’s going to Harvard. And we said, “No, you’re not. You can go to Harvard, but you can’t take all that with you. It’s not yours. The grant was given to the University of Maryland to carry this out, etc.” So you went through that difficult stage of the whole thing.

SCARPINO: They also created the Burns Center there. Did that have anything to do with something you funded?

MATUSAK: Yeah, yeah, but the first money I gave them was half a million and then in order to keep it going, the second half was another 500—another million.

SCARPINO: And they created the Burns Center. They used James MacGregor Burns’ name.

MATUSAK: Exactly.

SCARPINO: He was not really involved with that.

MATUSAK: No, he was not. I mean, just with Georgia. He and Georgia wrote a book together on Clinton. Oh my, you’re making me go through details that are so long gone in my mind.

SCARPINO: So you were also the Kellogg Foundation’s first leadership scholar.


SCARPINO: What did that entail? What was your portfolio?

MATUSAK: Well, Russ was insisting that I write. I should write. I should write; I should write about leadership and what I was teaching leaders, write. But I was doing grant-making in leadership, I was still supervising the Fellowship program, and I was dealing with the Expert in Residence program, which I designed. I don’t know if anybody even bothered mentioning it, but the Kellogg Foundation decided to move Kellogg’s home. He lived in a two-story stucco house, and they move it across the river from the foundation itself where it stands. Russ Mawby called a meeting of all of us professionals and wanted to know how do we use the building now? And I listened, and oh my God, I raised my hand and I said, “The last thing we need is another old restored building used for strawberry festivals. We can’t do that.” He said, “Well, what would you suggest?” I said, “Why don’t we have an Expert in Residence program? Battle Creek is a small town; we don’t get the kind of people I think ought to be coming in here to see the wonders that we have and to help teach our own people to have some pride in what they are doing, etc., blah, blah, blah.” He said, “Good idea.” And then I got a letter on my desk that I was appointed to make it happen. So I did. And you know, it was a very successful program. The first person we brought in was Vanessa White (editor’s note: it is Vanessa Williams), Miss America, first black Miss America. We brought her in, she went to all the schools, talked to all the kids, talked to people in the community. Then we brought the author of The Road Less Traveled, Scott somebody (editor’s note: it is M. Scott Peck). Anyway, we brought him in. We brought prominent people into the community. We brought Max DePree in. All of them knew that they got to live in the house, they were catered to. We had a couple who lived there who took care of all of their needs, but their requirement was to reach out into the community and make Battle Creek proud of what we have and teach what they could teach. We had a master mathematician come in who has a reputation for his books, etc., who went to all the schools and worked with teachers and what have you. It was a fun program, but it took a lot of work too. It was fun though.

SCARPINO: You also made a difference in the community, didn’t you?


SCARPINO: What kind of things—you mentioned S.A.F.E. …

MATUSAK: S.A.F.E. Place.

SCARPINO: S.A.F.E. Place the other day, but what else?

MATUSAK: Symphony board, I worked on the symphony board. They were going to fold up, too, and I’m working with them right now again because now it’s the Music Center in Battle Creek. Again, we had different boards for all these different—boys’ choir, girls’ choir, symphony, orchestra, all different boards. I know Roger sat on one of them, I sat on the symphony board, I sat on the boys’ choir board. I said, “This is ridiculous.” And so, with gentle nudging, pushing, working with a couple of people, we now have one board and all of those organizations are under the one board and have a lovely branch of the building and so forth. Yeah, I’ve worked a lot in the community.

SCARPINO: One of the products of your being the leadership scholar was your book Finding Your Voice?

MATUSAK: Yes. That was the reason I asked Russ to give me a different position so that I could take time off to write the book. That’s how that evolved.

SCARPINO: It came out in 1996?

MATUSAK: ’96, yes.

SCARPINO: That’s also the year you left the foundation?

MATUSAK: That’s right, retired.

SCARPINO: You went out on a…

MATUSAK: I was 66 and I decided a new person was coming in and I had done enough interviewing to know when I’m going to get along with somebody and when I’m not, and I felt quite certain that with the new leadership, we would be really at odds.

SCARPINO: You’re taking about a new CEO?

MATUSAK: Yeah, yeah, that we would really be at odds. I knew who he was and what he did, etc. He’s a great man, but I was not going to get along with him. He was too square for me. And he would not give me the kind of latitude I wanted. Russ wanted me to stay until I was 70 and I said, “You’re gone; why do you want me to say until I’m 70?” So, I made a wise decision.


MATUSAK: I started my own company.

SCARPINO: Which was?

MATUSAK: LarCon Associates. I did that; right at my retirement party I passed out my cards.

SCARPINO: What was LarCon Associates going to do?

MATUSAK: It was leadership development, organizational design, and executive coaching.

SCARPINO: So you went into consulting?

MATUSAK: Yeah. And I was busier than a “cat on a hot tin roof.” I was gone every week, every week for two and a half, three years. Then I finally decided, this is becoming no fun. I don’t want to travel this much anymore. And so I started being more picky. And I didn’t stop doing that consulting until I was 79. So, it was very beneficial. I said to Russ Mawby, “I made more money consulting that I ever did at the foundation.”

SCARPINO: You also accepted a position as professor at the James MacGregor Burns Academy.


SCARPINO: A Senior Scholar?


SCARPINO: Okay. So what did that entail? Was that a residence? Did you go there?

MATUSAK: I taught a class. Oh yeah, I lived there alternate months and I worked with Bill Bradley on his social issues project.

SCARPINO: Bill Bradley as in Senator Bill Bradley?


SCARPINO: The basketball player, Bill Bradley?

MATUSAK: Yes, that’s the Bill Bradley. I was disappointed in him. But anyway, I worked with him and I worked with Georgia and I wrote in monograph while I was there on the lessons learned in 10 years on leadership development. I don’t know what they’ve done with it, and I don’t have a copy here.

SCARPINO: It came out in 1998.


SCARPINO: It’s called “The First Ten Years of the Kellogg National Fellowship Program.”

MATUSAK: Right, right. And yeah, so I alternated months I spent at the Academy and I taught a class, a freshman class of incoming. They had leadership youngsters come in on scholarships for leadership, and I taught that class, and wrote, and talked.

SCARPINO: So freshmen, so these are like 18-year-olds?


SCARPINO: What do you tell an 18-year-old about leadership?

MATUSAK: That was fun. That was really fun because that’s what I would ask them. “Are you leaders? How many of you are leaders? Raise your hand.” I’d get a couple jocks raise their hands. I said, “Where are you a leader?” “I’m a football player.” You know, “I’m a basketball player.” “Okay, what about the rest of you?” So I asked a lot of questions and pulled them out of themselves and make them recognize, sit up straighter and straighter and say, “Yeah, I’m a leader!”

SCARPINO: You also co-edited with Barbara Kellerman, contributed a chapter to Cutting Edge: Leadership 2000?

MATUSAK: Right, right, yeah, that was fun, too. I enjoyed working with Barbara.

SCARPINO: How did you decide who were you were going to include? This is an edited volume, so you had contributors. How did you pick the contributors?

MATUSAK: Well, had selected. We asked people to please send things in. If you want to get published, send something in because we do want to put together a publication that shows that we’re not just a convention where people come to have lunch with each other and build networks. It’s more than that, much more than that.

SCARPINO: So these grew out of papers that had been presented at ILA?

MATUSAK: Yes, yes. And some of them were…

SCARPINO: Those had to take some work.

MATUSAK: Oh yeah, it does.

SCARPINO: Then you also co-edited Building Leadership Bridges 2001 and Building Leadership Bridges 2002. Was that also an outgrowth of ILA?

MATUSAK: Right, right, yes.

SCARPINO: Okay. So, by this time, you had been around leadership a long time.


SCARPINO: You had recognized yourself as a leader. When you got to the foundation, you realized you were being asked to do something for which there really wasn’t a template so you sort of started leadership studies.


SCARPINO: How had the field of leadership studies changed between the time you started at the foundation and the time you’re a Senior Scholar at the Burns Academy where you’re co-editing these books?

MATUSAK: Well, there were just so many institutions interested in leadership as a discipline and they weren’t, even despite James MacGregor Burns writing, they were not interested. They didn’t believe it was a discipline that could be taught and learned. And so the biggest difference I saw was people who thought you were born a leader or you were not a leader were no longer saying that. It was laughed at and they were now saying it’s a discipline, it can be taught, it can be learned, and you start teaching it in kindergarten.

SCARPINO: Okay, all right, so I’m going to ask you a few questions to wrap this up and we’ll be done in the two hours that I promised.

MATUSAK: Good. Today went faster.

SCARPINO: I asked you how you thought the field had changed, but what remains to be done in the field of leadership studies?

MATUSAK: I think technology has destroyed communications. And I think that a good leader has to be an excellent communicator and a collaborator and someone who understands that there is strength in everyone and you have to find it and use it. And the technology has completely wiped that out. Our young people are coming out of universities and colleges with degrees—they don’t know how to face—they don’t know how to deal with people. There’s no communication skill. They’re accustomed to their OK with a big K or something. And what needs to be done? I’m not sure how we’re going to put technology into its proper slot in our field of instruments to use. It has become the Lord and Master. And I think that has to change.

SCARPINO: I take it that you’re not persuaded that Twitter is a way to train leaders?

MATUSAK: No, no, in fact, I’m shocked at the way doctors treat patients. I’m shocked at the way help in stores treat people. They don’t treat people like people at all. They don’t know how to communicate. They don’t know how to be kind. They don’t know how to facilitate anything. And our young people are coming out that way and it’s scary. There was an article in The Futurist magazine on the fact that we have developed a technological age that can’t be matched, but is absolutely inept at communication verbally and with other people.

SCARPINO: What do you think that students in college should be learning that would address the problems that you’ve just raised?

MATUSAK: Well, look at Washington, D.C. Is there any idea in those—their feet are in cement, but is there any idea about collaboration or coordination or recognizing strengths and weaknesses? No, none whatsoever. And I think our colleges and universities fail in teaching students that collaborate, to work together, to work with each other. I think it’s all succeed, get your As, get your A+, this guy’s got a B, don’t even look at him and go. There’s got to be more. There’s got to be more than that. There’s got to be some way of evaluating an individual’s ability to get a task done with others, because that’s life. Our marriages are falling apart.

SCARPINO: One of the things that I didn’t ask you, and I’m going to back up and do this now, in interest of full disclosure I did interview Russ Mawby; it seems to me that there was a time you were there, one of the interests of the foundation was what I would call social justice. They stayed in South Africa training leaders believing that someday apartheid would be—so did you incorporate social justice into your leadership programs?

MATUSAK: Absolutely.

SCARPINO: How would you do that?

MATUSAK: Well, there’s another thing. I didn’t mention that, but the first three groups of Fellows, there was one minority in the first group, one minority in the second group, and one Hispanic—well, black, black—and one Hispanic in the third group. And I looked at that and I said, “This is not society.” We didn’t set any goals, but I made it very clear that I wanted to see representation of the population as we get new groups of Fellows. So we did that and I think we had a marvelous balance. We didn’t the first year, but I had at least maybe five, six people of color in that next class. And as we went on, it was very, very—we had firemen and we had professionals. We looked for that in the collaboration.

SCARPINO: To bring people together in groups…


SCARPINO: … that they might not otherwise have associated with.

MATUSAK: Exactly.

SCARPINO: As you look back on your career, what are you most proud of?

MATUSAK: What am I most proud of? Being a change agent who brought people along in the process and didn’t leave anybody behind. I guess I’m most proud of that.

SCARPINO: If you could have a do-over, is there anything that you would do differently?

MATUSAK: No, no. No, nothing. I loved everything I did. The fact that I was way before cracking the glass ceiling and always the only woman and still succeeded, and I’m not bitter or angry about anything, and my life in the convent taught me a great deal, so no. Would I have liked to have been the CEO of Kellogg? Yeah. I think I could have made a profound difference there as CEO, but I don’t regret it. That’s not a right word. If it could happen all over again and I were younger or whatever, it would have happened because I know the board felt strongly about me too, so.

SCARPINO: What do you still want to accomplish?

MATUSAK: What do I still want to accomplish? Change in the Catholic Church.

SCARPINO: In what way?

MATUSAK: I want to at least be a deacon. And I do what I can do to create the change that needs to be created and you can’t do much in the Catholic Church, again for the same reason, but I think that it’s on the horizon, and maybe before I’m dead I’ll have a chance on it.

SCARPINO: Do you think that the church will change?

MATUSAK: No, I don’t think it’s going to change that quickly, but with the new Pope, I think there’s the possibility of at least a deaconate, that women will be deacons and I think I’ll see that in my lifetime. And if I can’t be the deacon, I just want to see other women, I want to applaud for them. Now, you know there is a segment in the Catholic Church that call themselves Catholic Church, but they’re not Roman Catholic, and there are about 35 women ordained priests. So there’s that tension, there’s a schism almost, not quite, but almost. And change will happen, yes.

SCARPINO: What would you like your legacy to be?

MATUSAK: I don’t know how you’re asking that, but I think the Fellowship program in Leadership is one of my legacies because if I had not done what I did, I don’t think anybody at any other foundation—Ford didn’t undertake it until we did, and then Ford jumped in.

SCARPINO: And they started a similar program.


SCARPINO: And there are other programs around the country more or less designed from the model you created.

MATUSAK: Exactly, exactly. So I think that’s my legacy. I know when I say that I regret that I never had any children, the Fellows have a fit. They all claim they’re all my kids.

SCARPINO: Well, that’s a good thing, isn’t it?

MATUSAK: Yeah, it is.

SCARPINO: Two more questions. Is there anything that I should have asked you that I didn’t?

MATUSAK: No, my God, no. No, you are very good at what you do in asking the questions, and I hope I answered them satisfactorily.

SCARPINO: You did. Is there anything that you’d like to say that I haven’t given you a chance to say?

MATUSAK: No, nothing. I mean I think I’ve said it all and I could spend a long time talking about events in what we talked about, but that’s not necessary.

SCARPINO: Okay. Well, then before I turn the recorder off, we’re just a smidge under two hours, so I kept my word. I want to thank you on behalf of myself, the Tobias Center and the International Leadership Association for being nice enough to sit with me and open your home to me.

MATUSAK: You are most welcome.