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Former UW-RF professor and assistant dean leaves legacy

Dr. Gerald Matteson, known to many as Jerry or Doc, died at the age of 82 on Jan. 9, 2018. Submitted photo1 / 2
Gerald Matteson was inducted into the Wisconsin FFA Hall of Fame in 2003. Submitted photo2 / 2

Many knew, respected and cared for former UW-River Falls College of Agriculture Food and Environmental Science (CAFES) professor and assistant dean Gerald "Doc" "Jerry" Matteson who died at the age of 82 on Jan. 9, 2018.

Matteson began his career at UW-RF in 1966 and retired in 2000, although he came back after retirement to help. He served 18 years as the CAFES Assistant Dean from 1976-1995.

"I worked closely with him for probably about 30 years," said Gary Rohde, former Dean of CAFES. "He was a high energy person, dedicated, took his work seriously."

Matteson's dedication to UW-RF helped many students succeed.

"I know he was personally responsible for helping many students complete their degree via academic and guidance counseling and in some cases quietly paying tuition for those who had run out of money," said Stanley Schraufnagel, Professor Emeritus in the UWRF Agricultural Economics Department.

Fay Westberg, Academic Department Associate of Agricultural Education and Agricultural Engineering Technical Departments at UW-RF, said Matteson was truly passionate about the students at the University.

"When Jerry Matteson believed in something, he was passionate about it," Westberg said. "One of his passions was helping students succeed. He often met one-on-one with students, sketched out a plan for improvement and followed up with these students."

One of the many qualities Matteson was known for was his passion for parliamentary procedure. He believed that if you followed the rules of parliamentary procedure any meeting would go smoothly.

"Parli pro will make a meeting run smoother and faster," Matteson said in a 2005 interview. "Treat everybody equally, that works very well. If you're following the rules of parli pro, everyone is treated fair."

Matteson left a lasting impression with many when it came to his parli pro knowledge.

"Doc [one of Matteson's nicknames] was the Parliamentary Procedure guru for the Wisconsin FFA Association," said James Graham, professor and department co-chair of the Agricultural Education Department at UW-RF. "His big love was Parli Pro, and he was committed to helping students on campus and across the state learn it."

Charlotte Glenna said she remembered her first encounter with Matteson was at a parli pro and prepared speech contest when she was a freshman in high school. Matteson was one of the judges and Glenna's agricultural education teacher introduced Glenna to Matteson after the competition. Matteson gave Glenna advice about becoming an agricultural education teacher someday and was able to be there for her as she went on to school at UW-RF.

"Doc was persuasive and had a way of telling someone what their best qualities were and made you believe it," Glenna said. "Doc was always there with encouragement and a helping hand. He helped me manage my time, make connections and relationships with people that I otherwise would not have."

Glenna credits Matteson with making a big impact in her life and helping her be successful in her future.

"With his guidance, I became a very strong independent woman at a time when nothing seemed possible," Glenna said.

Whatever Matteson decided to do, he did whatever it took to get it done. Whether it was calling potential students to help increase the CAFES enrollment or teaching people how to properly use parli pro, he was passionate about everything he was doing.

"He was an amazing guy—if you wanted to get something done Jerry was your go-to person," said Schraufnagel. "He never dropped the ball, never used excuses and never blamed anyone."

Westberg said she not only got to know Matteson from working with him, but also became good friends with him over the years. She and her family went to Hawaii in 2005 with Matteson and his wife Faye, and this gave her a chance to see Matteson slow down just a little.

"If you knew Jerry, you knew he was a 'go getter' always planning and helping someone," Westberg said. "A unique opportunity that most people never observed of Jerry was that we saw Jerry actually relaxing in a lounger chair on the beach. He slowed down long enough to do that. However, I'm sure his mind was busy as ever."

In addition to his passion for UW-RF, Matteson also gave a lot of his time, energy and passion to other areas. Rohde said Matteson was a Brigadier General in the National Guard and dedicated many years to that role.

Matteson also became involved in the local Legion after his retirement from UW-RF.

"After retiring, Jerry got involved with the Legion and almost single-handedly, in my opinion, turned what was really a marginally active organization into one with more life and vibrancy and more community minded," said Schraufnagel.

Matteson was dedicated to helping others in any way he could.

"He donated a lot of blood, close to 100 gallons during his lifetime," said Rohde. "He was committed to that."

Whatever he was involved with or doing, those that knew him agree he left an impact.

"Jerry shared countless stories of his military experience, blood giving donations, experiences working with the American Legion, and his joy of getting to know and help students," Westberg said. "He will be missed by many."

Glenna knows the kindness, compassion and help Matteson gave to her was also something he shared with many.

"From my teacher in New Auburn [who first introduced Glenna to Matteson] to students I was going to school with, his influence is far reaching and a legacy that lives on in every ag teacher and in every person he taught," Glenna said. "He will be greatly missed but never forgotten."