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Gary Matthews was a superb philosopher and a warm and generous person. What Phaedo said of Socrates genuinely applies to Gary:  He was “a man who, we would say, was of all those we have known the best, and also the wisest and the most upright.”

I am grateful to have had Gary in my life.

-Lynne Rudder Baker

Professor Matthews along with Professor Perin taught me everything I know about the Greeks. But Professor Matthews didn't just teach me ethical theory, he showed what it is to be a virtuous man. Since my first day at UMass he always listened to me carefully as if the entire world depended on each of my words. He encouraged me to stay studying philosophy and pursue an academic career. When I felt like my prospects in academia were looking grim, he would always say: Santi, I believe in you. He was always caring and even when he was puzzled with a paper I had written, he would always have a positive remark, a constructive criticism to give that made me feel like what I was thinking and writing was worthwhile. I loved him because he cared for me, because he shared his anecdotes with me and because he made me a better person just by being his usual friendly and caring self.

I will miss my magister maximus, though I am glad I got to meet a true hero of American thought.

-Santiago Vidales

When I think of princes in philosophy, royalty as persons and and as philosophers, at the top of my list is Gary.  I met him for the first time in, I believe, 1980, as part of an NEH Summer Seminar he ran on the unusual topic of, as I recollect the title, the philosophy of psychological organisms.  It was a fascinating seminar, for not only did it include an excellent group of philosophers (the likes of Robert Gordon and Georges Rey, among others), but, first and foremost, it was directed by Gary's masterful hand, no small chore given the novelty of the topic and the quality of the seminar's participants.

Gary, and his wife, Mary, were wonderful hosts; and one of the most enjoyable parties my wife, Patricia, and I ever attended, with philosophers!, was at their home in Amherst, and consisted, in part, of everyone in the seminar playing an instrument in a musical recital.  "Instrument" in the loose and not honorific sense.  I played a metal triangle, for instance.  It was hysterical, and quite impish on Gary's part to arrange it.

We saw each other regularly after that, at APA's and the like, and I had him down to UAB, where/when I was chair, as a visiting speaker.  He reviewed a book of mine (a lovely review).  I kept in touch with his own work.  His book on Augustine is a gem.  In fact, during the seminar a kind of affectionate rumor circulated that when Gary was at Harvard he wrote his PhD thesis with Quine on Augustine.  I have no idea whether that's true, but if anyone could pull it off, if anyone could get Quine in the proper saddle, though only a student, Gary could.

I will miss him a lot.  A Prince.  Gary.

-George Gaham

Gary’s range of scholarly expertise was truly amazing: he contributed important work on Plato, Aristotle, Augustine, Aquinas, and Ockham, but also to our understanding of issues about perception and dreaming, the nature of philosophical methodology, virtue ethics, and philosophical issues surrounding childhood.  His work showed in countless ways just how much an understanding of the history of philosophy could contribute to our understanding of contemporary issues, but also how interesting that history is in its own terms.  Gary never saw the value of work in the history of philosophy as merely instrumental to contemporary work, but neither did he think that real philosophical progress could occur without a rich understanding of philosophy’s history.  It is no coincidence that members of this department, however engaged they are in contemporary debates, have such a respect for the history of our discipline.

Gary’s scholarly contributions have been prodigious, but the love and affection members of this department all felt for him do not derive from his scholarly contributions.  Gary was a gentle soul, someone who always played a constructive role in any discussion.  Gary exuded good will and a sense of common purpose.  He was, in addition, someone with a delightful sense of humor.  Gary was an extraordinary presence in this department for more than forty years. 

His death is a huge personal loss for us all.

-Hilary Kornblith

I met Gary Matthews in January of 1965, on a visit to the University of Minnesota as a candidate for my first job. We hit it off right away, and talked philosophy for a couple of hours during the two days I was there. I knew I had met a kindred spirit, and decided before I went home that I would take the job if they offered it.

I arrived at Minnesota as a Ph.C. (as was so common in those days), my dissertation largely unwritten. I was immediately caught up in new-course preparation, and was starting to let the dissertation slide. Gary noticed this, and would have none of it. He gently persuaded me to show him what I had written so far and what I proposed to do next. Within a few days I got back detailed comments, suggestions, and encouragement. The process repeated itself, and I soon discovered that my new colleague had become my unofficial dissertation adviser. Within a year, and with lots of help from Gary, the thesis was completed -- and I was able to keep my job.

From the time I started at Minnesota we met weekly to read, translate, and discuss Aristotle. For me, it was like getting that extra year of graduate school that I so badly needed but had given up to take the job. I loved these discussions, and we started getting results right away. I'm sure Gary knew that I'd be slow to get my publishing career going if left to my own devices, so he suggested we write a paper together. I jumped at the chance, and we soon had two jointly authored articles in print.

Gary thought it would be fun to open those discussions up to a student audience, and suggested that we jointly teach a course in ancient philosophy. His idea was that it would be a "debate" course on Plato and Aristotle. I would be Plato, and he would be Aristotle; each day, one of us would lecture and the other would respond. The beauty, he thought, would be that we would get a chance to see how Plato would respond to Aristotle's criticism. We did offer the course, and it went so well that we offered it a second time. In the process, I discovered that I was becoming much more an Aristotelian than a Platonist. But Gary wouldn't allow us to lose the debate format, so we reversed roles, with Gary representing the Platonic point of view. The students seemed to love hearing us debate one another, and the courses have remained the highlight of my teaching career.

I thought our collaboration would be interrupted when, after two years, Gary took a year off to be the Santayana fellow at Harvard. But Gary didn't let that happen. He arranged to get me an invitation to join G. E. L. Owen's legendary Greek Philosophy discussion group that met monthly in New York, and then persuaded the administration at Minnesota to fund my travel. Suddenly, I was part of a research group of the top scholars in my field, and Gary and I got to meet once a month throughout that year.

In 1969, Gary and I both left Minnesota; he went to UMass, I went to Rutgers. But we still lived close enough to one another to get together frequently. He set up a conference on Plato the next spring, and got me an invitation to be a lead speaker (along with Gwil Owen and Bob Turnbull!). I feared I was in over my head, but with Gary's help and encouragement, I got through it. Eventually I ended up in Seattle, but by then the computer age had arrived, and we found long-distance collaboration to be quite workable. We even managed to write a book together although we met to work on it face-to-face only a couple of times.

By a curious coincidence, Gary and I were born on the same day (albeit in different years), and we always tried to do something special to celebrate what Gary liked to call "the birthday." Sometimes this meant that one of us would arrange to visit the other (even though we now lived on opposite coasts). At other times, there was just a gift or a card or a phone call. But "the birthday" was always very special to both of us.

My friendship and collaboration with Gary has made an incalculable difference in my life. I am fortunate indeed to have been a colleague, collaborator, and friend of this extraordinary philosopher, this wonderful and generous man. I will miss him more than I can say.

-S. Marc Cohen

When I defended my dissertation in April 1996, Gary Matthews took me out to lunch. It turned out that we also celebrated a historic milestone: Gary had advised 30 PhDs in 30 years. It is a testimony to the versatility of his intellect and his careful guidance, which he did with gentle suggestions. I owe Gary much of my own philosophical development and remember vividly his response to one of my seminar papers. He wrote that he appreciated my critique of Martha Nussbaum, but could I also add some sympathetic note about her work (on Aristotle)? Gary truly taught me the value of humility and the meaning of constructive criticism. As I mentioned in my remarks at Mount Holyoke’s “Engaging Philosophy” conference in March 2011, I owe Gary my passion for teaching children philosophy, which I have done with children behind bars. Gary’s gentle spirit will always be with me. He valued my student activism in the following way: I explained to him that I had to miss his class because I had to go to Boston to protest a tuition/fee increase. He smiled and said, “instead of thinking about the good, you’ll be engaged in doing good.” I carry this noble sentiment with me today when I encourage my own students to be active participants in their own education.

-Mecke Nagel

When I tell people that Gary Matthews was my dissertation advisor, they usually reply that they didn’t know that I went to UMass. That’s how closely associated Gary is with UMass. But before there was UMass there was UMinn, where Gary taught from 1961 to 1969. I started graduate work at Minnesota in 1964, having no idea what I might specialize in and, for that matter, not much of an idea that I had the stuff it takes to complete a degree. Sometime in 1965 Gary offered a graduate seminar on the ontological argument. I signed up, not knowing what to expect. I soon found out what Gary expected, in his own characteristically gentle way. To cut to the chase, a descendant of my term paper resulted in publication and provided the impetus for my dissertation.

1965 was also the year in which Marc Cohen joined the Minnesota faculty. Soon thereafter Gary and Marc team-taught the Plato and Aristotle course that Marc mentions in his testimonial. The course was stunning, offering a glimpse of what could be accomplished pedagogically by cooperative effort. That same cooperative spirit resulted in Gary and Scott MacDonald jointly launching in 1999 an annual Augustine lectio session. The idea was to select a specific text from Augustine (no danger in running out there!) and to apportion out segments of it to participants (faculty and students) for a daylong discussion of it, in either Amherst. Ithaca, or Burlington. Everybody came to the table as an equal: the goal was to understand, not to score points. As one of my colleagues put it, Gary breathed life into those sessions. This year, for the first time, the meeting was canceled. It was to have been on April 30, the day I’m writing this. We hope to continue next year, but the sessions will go on without the presence of the person who most helped us to make sense of it all.

I knew Gary, then, for forty-six years, all of my professional life and then some. He was unstinting with his time for me, even going so far as to take in my Dalmatian once for a few days. If you know Dalmatians, you’ll know that most people are apt to take them into a peaceful household no more than once. But that’s a story for another time.

-William E. Mann

I first met Gary Matthews in 1966 when I became a graduate student at the University of Minnesota.  Gary consented to be my advisor and helped me immensely in those early years while I was attempting, not only to find my feet in philosophy, but also to further my grasp of Greek and Latin.  When, in 1969, I learned of Gary’s plan to take a position at UMass, I talked with him about the possibility of following along (--as a young Aussie, I liked to travel anyway).  Gary agreed to help me with the transfer and so, after (rather quickly) writing and defending an M.A. thesis at Minnesota, I arrived in Amherst where Gary, along with others in that amazing UMass Department, continued to help me along the road to my doctorate.

Gary’s contribution to my academic development is immeasurable.  He was unfailingly conscientious, insightful and constructive in his comments on my work—something that continued over the years beyond my graduation from UMass.  Gary was also a risk-taker.  When I first arrived in Amherst in 1969 and needed a loan to rent an apartment, the bank refused me unless I could produce a guarantor;  Gary agreed to be that person.  Furthermore, Gary and his wonderful wife, Mary, have showed me much kind hospitality.  Years ago, they put up my wife Jo-Anne and me on our way to Athens;  more recently, they invited me to stay during various UMass Alumni Philosophy conferences.  Needless to say, Mary is much in the thoughts of Jo-Anne and me today.

I am deeply saddened by Gary’s passing but am very grateful that I had the opportunity to share 45 years of my own journey with such a thoughtful, generous, brilliant and energetic man.

-Tony Willing

Gary Matthews was my colleague in the Philosophy department for about 40 years, and I valued his constant gentle presence, his friendly greetings every day, and his dedication to his students and to teaching and ideas.  Our department lived through some tumultuous and acrimonious disagreements, and although he was not in the same faction as I was, he never let these philosophical conflicts affect his respectful treatment of me.  I always felt he was willing to discuss ideas, read my papers and give thoughtful feedback on them, even if they were on a topic not central to his own interests.

I came to count on seeing Gary in his office every day Monday through Saturday, and often stopped in to chat with him when no one else seemed to be around.  In fact Gary has always seemed to me to be the soul of the UMass Philosophy department—a constant, steady, calming, reliable presence that made the place feel human in spite of other collegial hostilities swirling around. The hostilities subsided when many of us retired and new members came to the department, and Gary continued  being there as a gentle welcoming and engaging presence at the center of the department, at every talk, and every department event. 

My partner Carol and I several times met Gary and Mary out walking—I think both times were on Mt. Toby—and  Carol remarked to me what a lovely man he seemed to me from her strong impressions in those brief moments.  He was also a very dedicated and creative teacher, both for University students and also in developing ways of teaching philosophy to children by conversations with them about children’s literature.  For years after he retired he was still teaching his ancient and medieval philosophy courses for the department because there weren’t other faculty in the department with that specialty, and he was committed to service to the department.

We all will miss him terribly—there will be a hole at the center which no one else can fill. I offer my condolences to Mary and the family as we all grieve his loss.

-Ann Ferguson