Wayne Matthews has never hesitated to place himself in harm’s way to protect a fellow citizen.
It may not look like it if you catch him on an ordinary weekday as he’s serving as the director of Surry Community College’s Yadkin Center, but Matthews’ other true passion is fire and rescue.
Matthews has been a part of the Yadkin County Volunteer Fire Department for 29 years. He’s also been a member of the Volunteer Emergency Medical Team for 32 years. Matthews acted as chief of the department for several years.
“It fits into what I like to do, which is to positively affect people’s lives,” Matthews said. “Just to be able to help someone there in that time of need and to be able to do that in an effective way is very important to me. I get a lot of satisfaction by giving my time to help another person when they have that situation.”
Matthews gets the most satisfaction from his volunteer efforts when he is able to help children.
“A lot of times children are in the position where the instance that occurred is not of their doing and being able to help that child and have that child look up and say ‘thank you’ and know that you’ve been able to do something to make their day a little bit better, to me, those are the most memorable times and there’s been quite a number of them,” Matthews said.
Matthews has been a Yadkin County resident all of his life. He resided in East Bend, where he went to Forbush High School and then went on to receive a bachelor’s degree in biology at Appalachian State University.
He returned home and began teaching at Forbush Elementary School as well as a night program at Starmount High School. After that he headed to South Stokes High School, where he taught chemistry and physics and coached volleyball for 12 years. Matthews also obtained a master’s degree in science education from UNC-Greensboro.
His extensive background in fire and rescue paired with his teaching credentials helped lead him to his next job.
“In August 1994 I had the opportunity to come to work for Surry Community College,” Matthews said. “ They were looking for someone who had some fire or EMS rescue experience. At that time I had been a member of the rescue squad for about 11 years, and so that gave me some background in that area and kind of gave me a leg up on the job.”
When Matthews originally took his position he managed all the programs that the Yadkin Center had to offer, including EMT, fire and rescue classes, computer classes and Certified Nursing Assistant classes. Over the past 18 years his job has evolved as the center has grown.
“Today my chief role is to be the director of this center and to manage the various agencies that are here,” Matthews said. “We have the Surry Community College part, then we also have the Yadkin Early College High School which has approximately 200 students then we also have Appalachian State which offers classes in the evenings here, the fourth quarter of the year we have a corporate agreement with a company out of Pennsylvania called Sage that offers a truck driving program.”
During his time at the Yadkin Center Matthews has received an education specialist degree in higher education from Appalachian State and is working toward a doctorate in educational leadership.
Matthews said that although he may not be teaching classes anymore he is still satisfied to be a part of a workplace that improves people’s lives.
“They can have an educational experience here where they can go out into the world and have a better job or maybe they take something here that’s just for personal interest,” Matthews said. “To know that we’re positively affecting people in that way is where I get my greatest satisfaction.”
Matthews says that the most difficult part of his job is dealing with a shortage of space at the center. He says that the staff at the center want to do much more, but they are limited by the lack of facilities.
“That’s a daily struggle, but we maximize what we do have,” Matthews said.
Matthews’ other interests include woodworking, judging the regional quiz bowl and volunteering with Forbush Friends Meeting where he has been a lifelong member. He also enjoys spending time with his wife, Loretta, his daughter, Abby Salas and his son Wes.
“I would hope that some of what I’ve done is a good example for other people to do their part to make our community better,” Matthews said. “If other people can see in me an example of how to do their part to help make their community better and they can find their niche then we’re all going to benefit from it.”