Lawrence & Marilyn Matteson Give $3.5 Million to SCC’s Building the Dream Campaign

Written by Theresa Rose on June 29, 2015

West Burlington, IA –Southeastern Community College received a $3.5 million gift from local businessman Lawrence Matteson, Sr. and his wife Marilyn. The gift will go toward SCC’s Building the Dream initiative and capital campaign.

The Mattesons’ gift is the single largest gift in the history of Southeastern Community College and is believed to be the largest private gift from a living person to a nonprofit or community institution in all of Southeast Iowa. It is also believed to be the single largest gift to a community college from a living donor in the state of Iowa.

SCC President Dr. Michael Ash shared with the crowd of 100 attendees how inspiring the Mattesons are for their generosity and compassion.

“What the Mattesons have done – and continue to do – for the good of our community is immeasurable. Their gift will transform the lives of students who may never have had the opportunity to get an education and lead a happy and successful life.”

Building the Dream is the name of SCC’s new expansion initiative and capital campaign. The initiative includes a new Health Professions Center and Hall of Sciences on the West Burlington campus, and an Industrial Technologies Training Center on the Keokuk campus.

It is the largest, most comprehensive infrastructure investment undertaken by SCC since 1995, with an estimated total project cost of $27 million. It is being funded by a combination of SCC’s existing voter-approved bonded levy funds and the capital campaign. The fundraising goal for Building the Dream is $12 million.

The Mattesons’ gift propels total funds raised to $7.3 million –over 60% of the goal.

Construction on the first building, the Health Professions Center, is well under way. It is scheduled to open next spring and will be the first half of a new Health & Science Complex. The second building, the Hall of Sciences, will share a courtyard and be connected by a skywalk. The complex will also feature a new campus ring road and student parking. Work on the Hall of Sciences is set to begin next summer.

Construction of the Industrial Technology Training Center on SCC’s Keokuk campus is expected to begin later this year.

SCC Executive Director of Advancement Becky Rump notes the Mattesons’ ability to spot needs and find ways to fill them.

Rump explains that over the course of his career, Mr. Matteson witnessed first-hand fewer and fewer employees entered his business with the same level of technical know-how as he had learned while growing up on his family farm. Even though good-paying jobs in technical careers were available, lack of interest and skills meant those jobs went unfilled.

“With fewer young people being exposed to trades and technical careers, that knowledge and interest is being lost. Yet there’s a huge need for people with these skills. Through the Mattesons’ scholarship funds, they’re working to correct that by keeping a technical education within reach of those who want one.”

Lawrence Matteson grew up on his family’s farm outside of Wever, Iowa and graduated from Fort Madison High School in 1948.

Matteson worked at Case Company and Murray Ironworks in Burlington before going to work for the First Miss fertilizer plant in Wever, IA in 1970. Two years later, Matteson bought a used dredge and contracted with First Miss to maintain its containment ponds and barge loading facility along the Mississippi river.

Over the next 40 years, he and his son Larry expanded the business to include marine construction. They slowly secured larger and larger projects, building grain and coal loading facilities, harbors, and structures for locks and dams. The L.W. Matteson Company would go on to build facilities all along the Mississippi, Missouri and Ohio Rivers, eventually becoming the largest fresh water dredging and marine construction company in the US.

When Mr. Matteson sold the dredging division of his company in 2010 for $50 million, he and Marilyn wanted to invest some of that money to promote technical education. So they established a scholarship fund through the Community Foundation of Great River Bend, working with its North Lee County affiliate. The fund provides scholarships for 16 students attending SCC and for another 16 Lee County residents to pursue technical and nursing careers at the college of their choosing annually.

To date, more than 200 Southeast Iowa students have learned vital technical skills thanks to Mr. and Mrs. Matteson’s generosity.

In addition to funding technical and health career education, The Mattesons are strong supporters of health care organizations. In 2012 they gave $10 million to the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, MN to help build its new proton beam cancer treatment center. They also gave $1 million to UnityPoint Health Trinity Hospital in Rock Island in 2013.

The Mattesons, who currently live in Moline, IL, earned the 2014 Quad Cities’ Outstanding Philanthropists honors for their charitable endeavors.

Mr. Matteson told the crowd how rewarding it is to be able to see the difference financial gifts like his can make.

“Marilyn and I have been very fortunate. I encourage anybody who has the ability to do so, to make these gifts during your lifetime so that you can see them in action. It feels so good and I am so proud when I get to meet the students who received scholarships that we established.”