Alumnus donates to athletic teams

Sporting Florida A&M University T-shirts, flags and license plates were not enough to show a display of Rattler pride for one alumnus. He felt more should be done for his beloved University, and has donated equipment to both the men’s basketball team and the softball team.

Keith Matthews, an electrical engineering technology graduate from the class of 1994, is a native of Chicago. Before transferring to FAMU from Northern Illinois University, Matthews was distressed and on the verge of dropping out of school.

While at FAMU, Matthews said he not only earned a degree, but more importantly also learned the skill of networking and the power of using the word “hello.” His newly acquired skills-which he practiced frequently-have taken his career in financial services all the way to Dallas, where he works for Citigroup as a Web content manager.

Matthews is a FAMU Booster Club member, a Rattler football season ticket holder and has paid for reserved seating in Bragg Memorial Stadium for the past five years. Ironically, he rarely makes it to any of the games because of a demanding work schedule.

Matthews attended last season’s men’s basketball NCAA tournament game against Kentucky. While he was overjoyed to see his alma mater making history, Matthews was disturbed to see his guys looking less than uniformed playing in five different pairs of basketball shoes. The Rattlers also lacked the support of a team staple-the mascot.

Did other Rattler fans not get it? These guys were making history Matthews said.

He knew something must be done.

To show his appreciation, Matthews donated two pairs of AND1 basketball shoes to each player on this season’s roster.

One pair is white and orange, and the other is white and green.

The cost totaled $867 for 13 pairs in each color. An additional all-black pair was supplied to both coaches and players for practice, totaling about $1,100.

“I couldn’t be wearing Gucci watches and Tiffany jewelry and have my guys out there looking like that,” Matthews said.

Matthews said he appreciates what the team has done for the school, and his contribution was not a big step; it was long overdue.

“It was an incredible gesture. We really appreciate it and will be proud to wear the shoes,” said Mike Gillespie Sr., men’s basketball head coach.

Gillespie said he hopes other alumni will offer their support.

As a former member of the FAMU swim team, Matthews remembered his swim meets and jokingly said, “no one but our friends came out to see us.”

Knowing how it feels to be an athlete of a sport with traditionally less spectatorship than other sports, Matthews decided to donate to the softball team as well.

After seeing the girls selling football programs as a fund-raiser, Matthews immediately stepped into action and wanted to know what he could do to help.

Matthews assisted the team by providing them with four new bats.

Ranging at about $200 each, the bats were definitely not a part of the athletic budget.

Since the ladies hit about 300 balls a day, the new equipment will replace a few of the old bats, and in essence will give the existing equipment a longer life span.

For years Matthews has faithfully given to his school. He is a lifetime member of the National Alumni Association, and has even started the Charley/Charlie Foundation, which gives scholarships to deserving FAMU students.

The foundation named after his father and grandfather, respectively, was designed to assist FAMU students who are in financial need, and may not have the best academics.

“He (Matthews) actually puts his bank where his mouth is and never asks for anything back,” said Amber Alford, Rattler softball pitching coach.