Exceptional People: John Mathis

A senior man sitting in chair looking upwards and holding a book open in his hands

“I didn't work for a living – I played,” recalls University Woods resident John Mathis with a smile. John’s “play” was in the Astronomy department at the University of Wisconsin – Madison, where he was a theoretician for 36 years. There are such good students here who are eager to learn,” John shares.

John’s love of teaching and connecting with younger generations has been a recurring theme in his life. He and his wife, Carol, raised five children of their own and were temporary foster parents for 16 infants and children. “Kids are wonderful,” says John.

After John’s retirement, a friend at Oakwood told him about an opportunity through the Children’s Dyslexia Center in Madison. “He knew I was interested in teaching, so he suggested I consider working with dyslexic kids, and I’m glad I did.”

A man sitting with lamp in the back smiling and looking slightly upwards

Boredom is self-inflicted. There are so many fun things to learn and do.

He says the teaching itself came easily, and the materials he and his students read together varied, based on the child. “We read the manual for getting a driver’s license,” because that was of interest to some of his older students. “They had fun reading and when we’d finish they’d feel such a sense of accomplishment.” It’s clear that John found it fun as well, as he did this work for ten years, including 1,500 hours of one-on-one tutoring sessions.

Although John is no longer working with the Children’s Dyslexia Center, he enjoys staying busy. He's an avid reader, and is mostly interested in non-fiction. “Boredom is self-inflicted. There are so many fun things to learn and do,” he says.

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