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Local philanthropist Matthies was “one of a kind”

Local philanthropist and former Wittenberg University vice president Roland Matthies died Thursday after a brief illness at the age of 103.

Matthies served on countless local boards and committees, including the Greater Springfield Chamber of Commerce, the Tecumseh Council of Boy Scouts and the Clark County Historical Society. He was also a founding member of the Springfield Symphony Orchestra in 1946, where he played violin.

“He was one of a kind,” said his son, Richard Matthies.

Roland Matthies resided at Oakwood Village in Springfield for 22 years and was two months from his 104th birthday. Richard Matthies said he and his father would read the Springfield News-Sun and spell the longest words in the paper each day.

“He was right about 99 percent of the time,” Richard Matthies said.

Roland Matthies was born in Hammond, Ind., in 1910, where he later delivered groceries on a horse-drawn cart, Richard Matthies said.

“He goes from the horse-drawn vehicle era, pre-radio, pre-commercial aviation, pre-television (to today),” Richard Matthies said. “The things that he lived through in his 103 years are quite remarkable from a change perspective.”

Roland Matthies graduated from DePauw University in 1931 and the University of Chicago Law School in 1934. He later moved to Springfield in 1943 to serve as the business manager at Wittenberg College’s U.S. Army Air Cadet Training Program until the end of World War II. Roland Matthies was later named treasurer in 1945 and advanced to vice president in 1954. He was a national expert in charitable giving and helped raise millions for the college until he retired in 1975. He also served on Wittenberg’s Board of Trustees until 1988.

Springfield Foundation executive director Ted Vander Roest said Roland Matthies donated money to countless organizations over the years. He received countless awards from community groups over the years, including the Wittenberg Medal of Honor and Clark County Historical Society Benjamin Prince Award.

“He was very thoughtful in all of his giving,” Vander Roest said. “Everything was really planned out, and it was a wide variety. He’s really going to be missed.

“He touched just about everything around town.”

In lieu of flowers, memorial donations can be made to the Springfield Foundation. A public celebration will be held from 4-6 p.m. Monday in the community room at the First Lutheran Church, 30 S. Wittenberg, which will be followed by a memorial service in the church sanctuary.

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