Cal Hall of Famer Jack Matkin Passes On
Oct. 23, 2009
BERKELEY - John (Jack) Matkin, an oarsman on the two-time national championship varsity crew at the University of California and a new member of the Cal Athletic Hall of Fame, passed away on Thursday, Oct. 15, after a long battle with cancer.
A former high school basketball player and track athlete, Matkin was recruited by Cal crew at his freshman orientation. He took to crew with characteristic determination and rowed in the varsity shell for three years. The men's varsity crew won back-to-back national championships at the IRA Intercollegiate Regatta in 1960 and 1961, returning Cal to national prominence. Cal had not won repeat titles since 1934-35 and would not again until 1999-2000. Matkin was one of four oarsmen on both championship crews. The strong sense of teamwork exhibited by his crews had a profound effect on Matkin and the friendships he made lasted a lifetime. Matkin and his teammates from 1960 and 1961 are scheduled to be inducted into the California Athletic Hall of Fame Nov. 6.
In his last year of coaching in 1959, the legendary Ky Ebright saw in sophomore Jack Matkin a powerful young oarsman and moved him into the varsity shell in the #5 seat (regarded as part of the shell's engine room). The following year, 1960, new varsity coach Jim Lemmon, recognizing Matkin's powerful contribution to the speed of the boat, continued to have him as his #5 man. This crew went on to win Cal's first national championship in over 10 years on Lake Onondaga, in Syracuse, N.Y., coming from behind to defeat Navy and 10 other crews.
In Matkin's senior year, 1961, Lemmon asked Matkin to move to the #1 (bow) seat to make room for promising new starboard side additions to the varsity shell. In his book, Lemmon wrote about the 1961 crew, 'I felt the Bears were one of the more imposing crews we had ever boated.' This crew set the 3-mile course record on Lake Washington in Seattle, home of Cal's West Coast rival Washington Huskies. The record still stands. The 1961 crew went on to win Cal's second national title, defeating Cornell and 11 other crews. About that race, Lemmon went on to say, 'It was one of the truly great championship races in eight-oared rowing.
Matkin received his bachelor's degree in chemical engineering from Cal in 1962 and later earned his Ph.D. in chemical engineering from the University of Washington in 1968. He had a 32-year career with Chevron, holding managerial positions in research and technology, at refineries in El Segundo, Calif., and in Pascagoula, Miss., and at a fibers plant in Odenton, Md. He served as the general manager for refining technology in San Francisco and retired in 2000 after serving as the 'Y2K champion' for Chevron Products Company worldwide.
Matkin generously gave back to the community throughout his career and retirement. He was active in Rotary International for 29 years, and he and his family were recognized as Paul Harris Fellows. Matkin served on the Advisory Committee for the Lawrence Hall of Science for 14 years, including several years as chair. He was a member of the Board of Directors of the Friends of Cal Men's Crew, contributing his time and financial backing for the construction of the Cal crew's two new boathouses. He was also a member of the Big C Society.
An informal gathering of Matkin's family and friends will be held on Sunday, Nov 1, at 2 p.m. at the T. Gary Rogers Rowing Center, 2999 Glascock St., in Oakland.