The Oregon State University Sesquicentennial Oral History Project

Sort Interviews by Affiliation or Theme

LaMont Matthews Oral History Interview

Life history interview conducted by Mike Dicianna.

July 1, 2015


Sidney LaMont Matthews was born in 1934 in Ogallala, Nebraska, where his family owned a farm. With the worsening of the Dust Bowl in the 1930s, the family chose to migrate west, eventually settling in Dayton, Oregon. Matthews grew up there, participating in high school sports and spending weekends working in his father's garage. Matthews graduated from Dayton High School in 1952 and enrolled at Oregon State College, choosing to major in engineering at the suggestion of one of his high school teachers.

After a stint in electrical engineering, Matthews ultimately settled on mechanical engineering as his major at OSC. Matthews also initially attended Oregon State on a football scholarship, but a shoulder injury and the time demands placed upon him by his engineering curriculum led to his dropping out of the program after one season.

As a senior, Matthews had made plans to move to Cleveland, Ohio and work in power plant engineering following his graduation. However, a favorite professor, Dick Boubel, suggested that he instead apply to a small engineering firm located in Corvallis, a company called Cornell, Howell, Hayes, and Merryfield. The firm, later to be known as CH2M, hired Matthews, who spent a portion of his senior year working there on a part-time basis, before switching to full time work after graduation. He was the company's thirtieth employee.

Hired as a mechanical designer, Matthews' first projects with CH2M involved the design of plumbing and heating systems for houses. After a few years engaged in this work, his assignment shifted to larger wastewater systems, and he eventually became a project manager for multiple wastewater projects.

In 1971, CH2M merged with a company owned by Clair Hill and subsequently changed its named to CH2M Hill. After the merger, the firm reorganized its structure and Matthews became its first director of mechanical engineering. This new position required a great deal of travel, as Matthews was asked to consult with staff at company offices all over the country. Because his new position also involved higher leadership expectations, Matthews decided to go back to school for a degree in administration. He subsequently completed an executive MBA from the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania.

Matthews' next promotion saw him rise to director of the industrial and energy systems department, an umbrella division that included mechanical engineering, among other groups. In 1976, he became the company's vice president of industrial and energy systems, a position that was responsible for activities in mechanical, electrical, and industrial engineering, firm-wide. In 1984, Matthews joined the CH2M Hill Board of Directors, and served in this capacity for three years.

CH2M Hill underwent another major reorganization in 1995, at which point it restructured all of the management positions in the company, including Matthews'. Rather than continue as a manager, which would have meant a continuing schedule of heavy travel, Matthews left administration and returned to his roots as engineer, working part-time on a variety of quality control systems. In 2000, Matthews was inducted into the OSU College of Engineering Hall of Fame, and in 2003, after almost fifty years with CH2M Hill, he formally retired from the company.

After his retirement, Matthews became more heavily involved with the Corvallis community. He began volunteering, served on several non-profit boards - including the OSU Department of Mechanical Engineering's Advisory Board - and was active with the local Rotary club. In addition, Matthews devoted a great deal of time and energy to Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA), an organization for which Matthews volunteered for ten years.