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Remembering Audrey Matthews, CSUSB Professor and Public Servant

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Audrey Matthews, professor emeritus at Cal State San Bernardino, passed away on December 31, 2020 at the age of 84. Matthews dedicated her life to public service, spending more than 35 years working in local and state government as a professor, budget director, planning director and consultant. She was also a member of San Bernardino County’s Planning Commission and the county’s Workforce Investment Board. 

Audrey Matthews liked to say she didn’t know she was choosing a career in public service because it had just always been a part of her life. Born on December 24, 1934, she was exposed from a young age to the work her mother did as a public servant for the city of Chicago.

She didn’t think twice about it when she took her first job at the Chicago police department. In a 2014 interview she said that when she moved to California to work for the city of Beverly Hills, she continued to stay involved with the American Society for Public Administration.

“In California we had formed a group called, California Women in Government, and we worked for ERA and for political campaigns for women who were running for office in California and so forth. Diane Feinstein, Barbara Boxer, Maxine Waters, Gwen Moore and so forth," said Matthews. "So, it was those kinds of activities that motivated me to keep continuing to work in public administration.”

She went from Beverly Hills to Compton, and received her Master’s Degree in Public Administration from Cal State Northridge. It was around this time she started her own consulting business and one of her first big contracts was helping LAX prepare for the 1984 Olympics.

After encouragement from colleagues, she returned to school to earn the doctorate degree people so often told her she should have already had.

"My staff always said you’re a constant teacher," said Matthews. "You never tell us how to do anything, you teach us how to figure out how to do it for ourselves.”

After earning her doctorate from USC, she moved to Washington D.C. to become the director of budget operations for then Mayor Marion Barry.

Matthews said as a professor she liked to teach everything under the sun, but she preferred courses on organizational behavior. She taught full time at Cal State San Bernardino’s College of Business and Public Administration from 1996 to 2006 and part time until her death. 

When describing her life and career, Matthews expressed certainty with her chosen path.

“I don’t think I know how to be anybody else but somebody who cares and who mentors and who belongs in public services, said Matthews. "I’ve been a servant to the public all my life and all my career.”