Prakash Mathew’s unassuming humbleness, student body president Sarah Russell said, led him to believe that only a small turnout would gather for his party on Friday.
Retiring vice president for student affairs Prakash Mathew’s party started late because of a greeting line that stretched through the doors of the Memorial Union Ballroom, a long line filled with patient people wishing to commend Mathew on a 37-year career at NDSU.
The Great Plains Ballroom was filled, and it was standing room-only by the time the celebration began .
The scene was noteworthy, but unsurprising, according to President Dean Bresciani. Mathew has been trailblazing a legacy for decades.
“There is no one word (to describe Mathew),” Bresciani, who said he has known Mathew for nearly his entire professional career, said. “When you can fill a multi-hundred person room — those people I just talked to are from three states away — there are people from all over the country here.”
Bresciani was one of a handful of people to speak on behalf of Mathew. The retirement party commenced with words given by former associate vice president for student affairs Kate Haugen, which was followed later by a speech from Mathew’s predecessor, former vice president for student affairs George Wallman and past NDSU student government officials.
“Prakash has been a steady and exemplary being,” Haugen said. “We know him to be gentle. We know him to be honest. We know him to be caring. We know him to be stubborn with a good sense of humor.”
Although NDSU said goodbye to a man who has seen the university evolve for nearly four decades, the event maintained a light-hearted bounce.
“Prakash’s story really starts in 1890, when he came here as our first hockey coach,” Bresciani joked. “He has remained undefeated since that time, I might add.”
Along with the hundreds of coworkers and students in attendance, Prakash was also accompanied by his family and close friends, including the Rev. Ross Robson.
In 1968, Robson met Mathew in India, where Robson was participating in a church’s study tour. Their subsequent friendship, along with the financial help from Fargo’s First Presbyterian Church, later brought Mathew to NDSU for his master’s degree in counseling.
Mathew previously worked in NDSU Residence Life and has been a dean of students before being selected as vice president for student affairs.
This position is a vital role, according to Russell. The administrator’s role “is to represent students in all aspects of university life and keep their best interest in mind at all times.”
Mathew’s legacy, Russell said, “is the positive influence he has had on students’ lives at North Dakota State University. I don’t think he’d have it any other way.
“They’d all say the same thing: Prakash changed my life. I think it’s the ultimate compliment,” Bresciani said.
Along with kind words, Mathew was also bestowed numerous honors.
Bresciani named Mathew as emeritus vice president for student affairs, effective July 1, the day after he officially retires.
It was also announced that the Living Learning Centers would be renamed in Mathew’s honor.
Governor Jack Dalrymple could not attend the party, but he did write a proclamation for Mathew, to which Bresciani attested that he has never witnessed in his professional career.
“As governor of North Dakota, I’m honored to recognize Prakash Mathew for thirty some-odd years to the state of North Dakota and North Dakota State University,” Dalrymple wrote.
Russell and student body vice president Hilary Haugeberg gifted Mathew, a Wellness Center regular, a lifetime membership as well.
Mathew was also serenaded by a student duet, who sang “You Raise Me Up.”
Many personal stories were shared Friday among attendees.
Russell’s favorite memory of Mathew includes sweets.
Last summer, NDSU student government’s executive team joined Bresciani and Mathew for a formal dinner. During the midst of conversation, dessert was placed in front of each seat, but, with the formality of having proper etiquette, nobody touched their food.
“I stared at the dish for about four minutes,” Russell said, “(I) finally decided to take the lead and … nonchalantly took a bite. Prakash immediately leaned over to me and said, ‘Oh thank you, Sarah!’ and took a bite of his (own desert).”
“If you distilled that student-focus (entity) down and made it into a person,” Bresciani said, “Prakash Mathew is that person.”