Over the past decade, Gustavo Matheus ’90, biological sciences, has demonstrated his pride in UMBC in a most tangible way: helping to persuade his fellow alumni to give back to the university.
Now UMBC is giving something to Matheus: its 2009 Outstanding Alumni Award for Distinguished Service to the university and it’s alumni.
Matheus has a successful health law practice in Rockville. But he has also spearheaded a number of alumni projects at UMBC, including mentoring young alumni who helped create the university’s Esperanza Endowment Fund – which supports UMBC students of Latino or Hispanic ancestry and/or students committed to the advancement of minorities, especially of Latino or Hispanic descent.
He has also worked with alumni staffers on a number of events designed to support UMBC, focusing in particular on outreach to alumni in Montgomery County. “Every student has a unique reason for coming to UMBC,” Matheus says, “and I believe every graduate has a uniquely personal reason to return as an alumnus.”
Matheus observes that “what makes UMBC different to me today, as an alumnus, is that I took the school for granted when I attended the university. It was more like, ‘Okay, this is from where I will graduate.’ That was enough for me then.
“Later, I realized that UMBC is increasingly being recognized for its excellence, which didn’t happen on its own,” he continues. “Then I realized that, like all universities, UMBC needs the assistance of its alumni. There is a place for us in the student-to-alumni continuum.”
Matheus is particularly passionate about his latest project to help students: the establishment of a new fund in honor of his friend and classmate Maryland State Police Trooper Tobin Triebel ’92, emergency health services, who died in an accident late last year.
As it grows, says Matheus, the new Trooper Tobin Triebel Fund will support majors in the university’s emergency health services program in two ways.
Its first objective is to help UMBC’s emergency health majors defray the cost of the mandatory EHS exam – which must be passed in order for EHS students to graduate.
“We want to say to students, ‘You do not have to pay that, it’s already been paid for,’” says Matheus. Eventually, Matheus and the others involved in the origination of the new fund hope to also provide scholarship assistance to emergency health majors.
Matheus spearheaded the creation of the fund, but he points to the efforts of fellow classmates Jonathan Hart ’96, political science, and Yvonne Gazelle ’91, modern languages and literature, in establishing it. Walter Kerr ’96 and M.S. ’97, emergency health services, a lieutenant with the Maryland State Police who worked with Triebel and was a 2005 UMBC Outstanding Alumni of the Year award winner, also played a key role in creating the new endowment.
“When we have several ordinary people with ordinary means, a synergy is created that can accomplish more than just one person,” reflects Matheus. “We have several of us graduates to push forward with this.” The fund is now gathering donations. One year after it reaches a total of $25,000, the fund will officially begin disbursing money.
Matheus also observes that giving isn’t all a one-way street. “There is a huge network of alumni with a common vision for the school. It’s not me alone, or her alone who cares about UMBC. It’s us both – along with many others.
“Being active with alumni has been useful, too, professionally speaking,” he concludes. “As an attorney, I have met colleagues to whom I have referred clients. Or when they have needed help in the health law arena, some alumni attorneys have reached out to me for assistance. That has been a really nice, unanticipated benefit of being an active UMBC alumnus.”