The Intelligencer / Wheeling News-Register
ST. CLAIRSVILLE - The Eastern Ohio Alumni Chapter of Ohio University has named John S. Mattox as the 2016 Austin C. Furbee Award honoree, in recognition of his dedication and contribution to Ohio University and the community. A dinner was held in his honor on Wednesday at Belmont Hills Country Club in St. Clairsville. Ohio University Eastern Campus Dean Paul Abraham introduced Mattox at the event.
"Dr. Mattox clearly exemplifies the intent of the Austin C. Furbee Award," said Abraham. "He is most deserving of an honor that seeks to recognize an individual for his steadfast and impactful service to our campus and the community."
Known for his affable personality, Mattox is a longtime member of the Ohio University Eastern Campus Coordinating Council, co-chair of the university's African American Cultural Committee, and has been a vital contributor to the Department of African American Studies' African American Presence in the Ohio River Valley research project. The grant-funded multimedia project documented the contributions of people of color to the history and development of Appalachia. He also funds an annual non-restricted $500 scholarship to the Eastern Campus.
A native of Raleigh, N.C., and a U.S. Air Force veteran, Mattox has been active in dozens of local and national organizations since moving to his late wife, Rosalind's, hometown of Flushing in 1973.
In fact, the Underground Railroad Museum shares its building with A Special Wish Foundation, an organization for which Mattox serves as national chairman and National Board of Governors member.
Accolades are nothing new for Mattox, a retired insurance agent. In 2008, he was presented with an honorary doctorate of public service from Ohio University. He has also received the Belmont County Tourism Person of the Year recognition, the West Virginia Education Association's Effie Mayhan Brown Award, and the Community Builder Awards from the cities of Steubenville and Flushing.
Mattox has served as the local president of A Special Wish Foundation, and chairman of the national board of A Special Wish Foundation. He is also a board member for various companies and organizations, including the Ohio University Eastern Regional Coordinating Council, Harrison County Hospital, Belmont County Correctional Institution Community Board, Sargus Juvenile Center, and Bank One in Wheeling.
Mattox is best known for his work with the Underground Railroad Museum, which displays more than 30,000 items related to the Underground Railroad and slavery region. He is currently spearheading the inaugural Juneteenth Celebration in the region, as well as in the state of Ohio. Juneteenth is the oldest known celebration commemorating the ending of slavery in the United States. A Juneteenth Celebration event will be held June 17 at Ohio University's Eastern Campus to benefit the Benjamin Lundy Home in St. Clairsville and the Union Humane Society. The theme for the event will be Rozz's Garden, in honor of John's late wife.
Despite his remarkable accomplishments, Mattox is most proud of his family life. He was married for 50 years to the late Rosalind L. Stewart-Mattox. They established a lifetime of roots and memories in Flushing, where they raised two children, John R. Mattox (now 41), and Suzanne Evans (now 40). Today, John R. (Jennifer) and Suzanne (James Evans) are married and have two children each, making John S. a grandfather four times over.
"I am overwhelmed to have been selected by the Eastern Ohio Alumni Chapter as the Austin C. Furbee recipient," said Mattox. "I never expected to be on this list, and this will take a long time to soak in. I am especially proud of the bond that I have formed over the years with Ohio University Eastern because it is such a special place, providing much-needed access to high quality, affordable higher education to citizens of the Ohio Valley for the last 60 years."
Mattox continued, "Life is the ultimate learning experience, and one of the lessons that I have learned is that I didn't get here on my own. I have been blessed to have been supported and pointed in the right direction countless times by my wife, Roz, and other members of my family. It is in this spirit that I am committed to giving back and trying to make a difference for Ohio University Eastern and the greater community. Thank you, Roz, for 50 wonderful years and a lifetime of memories. It is my privilege to accept this award in your name here tonight."
Austin C. Furbee, for whom the award is named, played a key role in the formation of the Ohio University Eastern Campus. While serving as a Belmont County commissioner, Furbee realized that there were limited opportunities for higher education in the Ohio Valley. As a result, he became instrumental in the commission's acquisition of the former Belmont County Experimental Station farmland, which was to become a regional campus of Ohio University.