Phil Matthews ’83 looks back with pride at a journey that took him from being born a “poor country boy” in Durham, North Carolina to a nearly 40-year career with stops around the world in the early days of the modern telecommunications industry. Matthews began his long career with General Telephone & Electronics, once the largest independent telephone company in the United States and now known as Verizon, prior to earning a college degree.
“After rising to become a district manager in one of our Georgia offices,” recalls Matthews, “I realized that everyone reporting to me had a college degree and that I’d need to have the same if I wanted to continue to advance.”
Upper Iowa enjoyed one of its earliest corporate partnerships with GTE at the time, and Matthews was able to earn his education at his employer’s expense provided he maintained a ‘B’ average. After taking many courses via UIU’s correspondence model, Matthews spent two summer sessions in Fayette, eventually earning his degree in 1983 at the age of 42. Matthews later earned a Master’s degree from Dallas Baptist University, in addition to taking management training courses at both Duke University and the University of North Carolina.
Matthews’ career path included stints leading a five-state region as a general manager in Durham, a district manager position in Georgia, and a business planning position at the corporate headquarters in Connecticut. During the 1990s, Matthews worked in GTE’s international department which included lengthy stints in Venezuela, Argentina, Indonesia, Thailand, and China. Matthews eventually retired from GTE during its merger with Bell Atlantic in 1999.
Phil and his wife of 60 years, Jerri, have enjoyed a variety of activities during their retirement, including sailing, golf, woodworking, and travel. They currently reside in Sun City, Texas.