News & Ideas  -  Mathews, President and CEO of the Kettering Foundation, to Change Roles

Press Release

DAYTON, OHIO (Aug. 18, 2021) – Kettering Foundation President and CEO David Mathews announced today that he will relinquish his executive responsibilities as soon as the Board of Directors hires a successor. Mathews will retain a scholarly role at the foundation and will focus on writing and research, as he has long desired.

As the leader of the Kettering Foundation since 1981, Mathews has directed the foundation’s research about the public’s role in democracy. He has been a tireless champion of the idea that regular citizens can make a difference in combating the crisis in democracy now facing the United States and countries around the world.

“Today, because of the threats to democracy, there is a heightened interest in what Kettering has learned from 40 years of research on what it takes to make democracy work as it should,” Mathews said. He has numerous requests for updates of the 8 books on that subject which he has authored. And his two most recent books—With the People, on the mutual distrust clouding the relationship between citizens and the major governing institutions, and Together: Building Better, Stronger Communities—are currently being tested with prospective readers. He also has several new books he hopes to write. He says, too, that he wants to do a better job of responding to calls for articles and speeches. He believes that continuing to advance the research is the best role for him to play at Kettering. “I don’t need to be president to do this work.” Mathews said.

“Dr. Mathews has held firm to the idea that citizen-led democracy is one of the great wonders of human history and must be studied, understood and defended,” said Kettering Foundation Board Chair Sherry Magill. “We are grateful for his leadership, especially in these challenging times. And the board is delighted that Dr. Mathews will continue his research and writing.” Magill is leading the board’s search for Mathews’ successor, which has begun.

Mathews graduated from the University of Alabama and earned a doctorate in history from Columbia University. He taught at the University of Alabama for several years as well as becoming its president in 1969 at the age of 33, making him the youngest university president in the country. Mathews went on to become Secretary of Health, Education and Welfare in the administration of President Gerald R. Ford. He helped launch the National Issues Forums (NIF) and chairs the NIF Institute that encourages deliberative decision-making wherever public decisions are made. The David Mathews Center for Civic Life in Alabama is named for him, and he will continue to be active in its work.

The Kettering Foundation is a nonprofit operating foundation rooted in the American tradition of invention and cooperative research. Kettering’s primary research question is, what does it take to make democracy work as it should? Kettering’s research is conducted from the perspective of citizens and focuses on what people can do collectively to address problems affecting their lives, their communities, and their nation.