Kenneth Matheson (1922-1931)
Matheson was born in Cheraw, S.C., in 1864, graduating from the South Carolina Military Academy (The Citadel) in 1886. He served as commandant of cadets at George Military College, the University of Tennessee, and Missouri Military Academy, and obtained a master’s in English from Stanford University in 1897.
That year, the Georgia School of Technology hired Matheson as a junior English professor; he advanced quickly, and in 1905 was elected acting president after the incumbent’s death. The “acting” was removed in June 1906. Created with turning the then-technical school into a full-fledged university, Matheson was an ideal candidate to lead Drexel after Hollis Godfrey’s resignation. Elected president in the fall of 1921, Matheson left Georgia Tech and assumed his role with Drexel in April 1922. (A special administrative board, chaired by Dean of the Faculty Frank H. Linthicum, governed in the interim.)
Matheson reorganized the administrative and faculty structure of the institute, making several new appointments and creating the position of Dean of Men to go along with the expanded position of Dean of Women. These two posts were key in supporting student organizations and encouraging extracurricular participation. Matheson also created a Faculty Council comprised of deans, directors, and department heads that met weekly. At alumni request, he reinstated the Library School; the Department of Education and Psychology was also formed.
At his arrival, the institute operated at a deficit, which Matheson offset with donations from the Drexel family and their friends. For a more long-term fix, he developed a $1 million endowment campaign, announcing in 1923 that the General Education Board of the Rockefeller Foundation would contribute $100,000 if the institute could raise $900,000 in public contributions. The drive began in 1924 and reached its goal in four years, receiving the $100,000 by 1930.
Matheson expanded the cooperative education program begun by Godfrey, making contacts to allow engineering and business administration students to work for wages throughout the school year, rather than only during breaks.
Campus growth included the 1929 dedication of Curtis Hall for engineering, and the opening of the Sarah Drexel Van Rensselaer Dormitory for Women in 1931.
In May 1931, the Board of Trustees voted Matheson a leave of absence because of poor health. However, Matheson decided to postpone his leave and died of a heart attack on Nov. 29, 1931.