Campbell cornerstone retires

The year was 1943 when Dr. Leslie H. Campbell plucked 18-year-old Diamond Johnson out of Miss Mabel Powell’s English class to be his secretary. The son of Campbell University founder James Archibald Campbell, President Leslie Campbell needed a bright, young assistant who was “especially good in grammar.” “You can imagine how I felt when Dr. Campbell called me out of class,” said Matthews, laughing. “I couldn’t figure out what I had done.” Three presidents later and still professional in a periwinkle blue suit with black velvet collar, Diamond Johnson Matthews’ brown eyes flash with the same vitality and wit she possessed over 60 years ago as she reminisces about Campbell University. (Matthews will become semi-retired on Oct. 1 and return to Campbell to work part-time compiling university archives in Jan.) “Everything was dirt. There were no sidewalks. It was just like a virgin forest,” Matthews said of the Campbell campus. “There were no lights at night and no paved roads. We had no transportation except for a Trailways bus that you could take to Dunn for five cents or to Raleigh for 25 cents,” she laughed. But Campbell was on the move and Matthews was to play an integral role in its growth and development. In 1965, Campbell was granted senior college status by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS). Matthews remembers the night Dr. Leslie Campbell and his wife returned from Atlanta, Ga., with accreditation papers practically in hand. “For several weeks we’d worked 24/7 compiling a self-study,” said Matthews. “I didn’t go home except for a couple of hours each night. People brought my breakfast, lunch and dinner to the office.” When Dr. and Mrs. Campbell arrived back in Dunn that morning at 2 a.m. after delivering Campbell’s self-study to SACS, there were over 200 staff, faculty and students waiting on the train platform to greet them. “That was a landmark in our history,” said Matthews. “It was a most important time because we could begin our professional schools; we could take off then.” Campbell did take off. The year 1967 when Dr. Norman Adrian Wiggins succeeded Dr. Leslie Campbell as president, would mark the beginning of a 36-year period of growth in Campbell history, including Campbell’s accreditation as a university in 1979 and the establishment of five professional schools—law, pharmacy, divinity, business and education. “Dr. Wiggins really helped build this university,” Matthews said. “He created a wonderful, wonderful treasure for the Baptist community and the world to enjoy.” Wiggins began by creating Master of Business and Master of Education programs simultaneously with a School of Law. “SACS said you couldn’t get all of the programs accredited at the same time,” said Matthews, “but tell Dr. Wiggins he can’t do something and that’s when he really goes to work.” In just three years, all three programs were accredited by SACS, with the School of Law receiving provisional accreditation in two years, a remarkable accomplishment. “You can imagine how hard we worked,” said Matthews. “Dr. Wiggins had the vision, and I helped make it a reality.” In 1976, the Norman Adrian Wiggins School of Law was founded, followed by the School of Pharmacy in 1986; and the Divinity School in 1995. “Just think the sky is the limit! Campbell can do anything because we have wonderful leadership and a wonderful staff and faculty,” Matthews said. During her long career, Matthews has been honored many times and in 2006 she received the Lifetime Service Award from the Campbell University Alumni Association, for which she served as secretary to the Alumni Board of Directors for 46 years. “Campbell is my baby,” she said affectionately. “I’ve been allowed to see it grow, prosper and mature, and I have been truly blessed in working with three outstanding presidents—Dr. Campbell, Dr. Wiggins and Dr. Jerry Wallace, each one a great leader for his era.” The daughter of the late Ethel Tart and Mellie Johnson, of Smithfield, N.C., Diamond Johnson Matthews graduated from Smithfield High School in 1942. She received a Bachelor of Science degree in Business Administration, graduating summa cum laude, from Campbell University in 1965. She has a son, Brooks, a daughter-in-law Rosa Maria, and three granddaughters: Maria Costa, Jennifer Jenkins and Heather Matthews.Awards:.2002- Campbell yearbook the “Pine Burr” is dedicated to Diamond Johnson Matthews..2006- Lifetime Service Award is presented to Matthews by the Campbell University Alumni Association..2006- Matthews is honored for 63 years of service to Campbell University by the Board of Trustees.Photo Copy: Diamond Johnson Matthews today.

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