*and probably a whole lot more
Early Years, 1956-1973
The third and youngest child of a middle-class family in Moline, Illinois, Matt Coulter enjoyed a Norman Rockwell-style childhood growing up in the middle west. His earliest memories include sun-drenched days of play in an apple orchard next to his home and of cows grazing in pastures across the street. During his teen years America passed through the turbulent late 1960s and early 1970s. Though much of the strife and confrontation of the era passed over Moline, a Mississippi River city of approximately 45,000 persons, he could not fail to see the impact of cultural and political change, through television if by no other means. Living far from the large cities (Chicago being the closest, 150 miles to the east), Matt could choose from one of two television channels during his younger years. By the time he graduated from high school in 1974, the number of channels had doubled to four. Two radio stations, one AM and one FM, played rock-n-roll.
Matt attended Catholic grammar school and high school. Like many boys in his age-group during those times, he dreamed of being a professional athlete. In eighth grade he led his 13-4 basketball team in scoring, rebounding, and free throw accuracy. It was the pinnacle of his athletic success, though he continued to play and secure starting roles in 9th and 10th grades. He also played a year of football, starting at guard and middle linebacker, and a year of track, running the 400 meter sprint. By his junior year of high school, however, a sad realization had to be confronted: he was under six feet tall and not particularly quick. A future as a professional athlete was not to be.
Fortunately, attractive alternative avenues beckoned. It was 1973 as Matt began his senior year of high school. The Vietnam War ended for the United States, lifting any of his qualms about being drafted. The Arab Oil Embargo was soon to throw a monkey-wrench into the American economy that for most of Matt's life had coasted upward on a sea of inexpensive petroleum. More important than these to Matt's future, however, was the Watergate scandal of the Richard Nixon Presidency. Nixon seemed to stand against most everything Matt stood for, and Nixon seemed to be for most everything Matt was against. When journalists began to expose the crimes of the Nixon Administration, Matt understood the valuable service newspaper writers performed. He decided to be a journalist. During his senior year, he retired from competitive sports and instead served as editor of the school newspaper.
College Years, 1974-1982
College stood as the next phase of Matt's life. He wanted to study journalism. But where? Graduating from high school as a member of the National Honor Society and with a strong ACT score, he could go just about anywhere he wanted. He would be the first of the family to go away to college, so his parents would probably be able and willing to support his education. A helpful nun at his high school, knowing of his journalistic ambitions, recommended Southern Illinois University (SIU) in Carbondale, Illinois. The reputation of the SIU School of Journalism was exceeded by the university's renown as an oasis of the counter-cultural hippie movement and the center of college partying in the lower middle west during the 1970s. After visiting several colleges, Matt decided to endure the trials of a party-type campus and enrolled at SIU in the fall of 1974. Just as classes began, Richard Nixon resigned from the presidency.
While investigating the last vestiges of the 60's hippie movement as it slowly faded in the 70s, Matt diligently attended classes and focused on his studies. He earned a Bachelor's Degree in May of 1977, graduating with University High Honors and a double major in Journalism and Political Science. He was 20 years old. The quick journey through undergraduate studies included a variety of new experiences that showed Matt there was a lot more to life than he had seen during his early years in Moline. In 1976, he traveled to Washington, D.C., to celebrate the bicentennial of the United States of America. The following spring he attended his first Mardi Gras in New Orleans. Upon graduation, he knew there was much more he wanted to see and do. He did not feel ready to begin the long trek up a career path, so he used the next two years to, in the phrase of the day, "find himself."
These years saw much more travel, including hitch-hiking trips to Boston and Key West, backpacking in the Grand Canyon, and a return visit to Mardi Gras. He worked for six months in a factory and became a card-carrying member of the AFL-CIO. Later, he delivered pizzas and sub sandwiches. Finally, after two years of this bohemian existence, Matt decided to go back to higher education. The offer of a fellowship to cover expenses for his first year of study toward a Master's Degree in History helped him re-enter the academic world in the fall of 1979.
Matt received a Master's Degree in History in August of 1981. His thesis, "The Franklin D. Roosevelt Administration and the Question of Palestine, 1938-1945," yielded a professional presentation in New York in 1982 and later two professional publications. A growing interest in national affairs led him to become active in several political campaigns in the early 1980s, including a lead role in organizing SIU students behind Senator Edward Kennedy's bid for the Democratic nomination in 1980. Kennedy's focus on health care, at a time when most politicians had nothing to say on the issue, appealed to Matt. In 1981, Matt ran for office himself, placing third among candidates running for two city-council seats. Later, he worked to re-elect Illinois Congressman Paul Simon in 1982. During this campaign, he met a community college professor who was also working in the campaign. Watching the lifestyle of this man, Matt for the first time began to consider a career as a college teacher. He asked for the professor's help and a few months later received it. John A. Logan College, in Carterville, Illinois, hired Matt to teach two sections of American Government.
Community College Teacher, 1983-2011
In 1982 and 1983 Matt applied for every advertised full-time college teaching position and in fall 1983 he received an offer to teach at Hibbing Community College in Hibbing, Minnesota. Answering the door when opportunity knocked, he moved to the cold regions of northern Minnesota, less than one hundred miles from the Canadian border. Hibbing, the home town of folk singer Bob Dylan, does not exactly sit at the center of American civilization. Still, Matt made the best of his five years there. He learned to cross-country ski, took two years of college Spanish, continued traveling, and published two professional articles. In 1987, he became a father. Also during this time he served as regional coordinator for the Minnesota Community College System's Writing Across the Curriculum (WAC) program. Participation in WAC exposed him to many new and innovative teaching and learning ideas and greatly impacted his approach in the classroom.
By the mid-1980s, Matt geared up to move to a more populated and warmer location. Applying for several community college teaching positions, he secured an offer from Collin College in 1988 and moved to Plano in time for the opening of the Spring Creek Campus. In 1989 he began study toward a Ph.D. in History at the University of North Texas in Denton.
The 1990s brought many changes to his life. In 1992 he divorced and became a single parent. Four years later, he earned his doctorate. And one year after that, he published a book, The Senate Munitions Inquiry of the 1930s: Beyond the Merchants of Death. He had also become interested in postmodernist theory, publishing an article titled "Modern Teachers and Postmodern Students" in 1993. Throughout the decade he refined his teaching techniques, expanding multimedia use and emphasizing collaborative learning. He made numerous professional conference presentations around the United States and continued to travel, visiting Canada, Mexico, and Western and Central Europe.
In the early decades of the third millennium, Matt finds himself happily engaged in life. Travel continues to be an important part of his life. He plays guitar and sings in occasional gigs, sometimes providing music for art gallery openings at Collin College.
Intellectual activity remains important, too. He is enjoying his twenty-eighth year as a full-time community college instructor and still loves being in the classroom. He published an essay on the Cold War in 2004 and was named to "Who's Who Among America's Teachers" in 2004 and 2005. His 1996 book was quoted and cited in the March, 2005, Wall Street Journal. Matt published a novel, titled Grandmaland, in 2007, and enjoyed his first travel in Asia during the summer of 2008. He co-authored an article in the Journal of Learning Communities in 2009 and made a professional presentation to the National Society for Experiential Education in 2011.
Looking around his world, Matt is often reminded of the thoughts of Voltaire. The great French philosophe noted that for a feeling person life is a tragedy, whereas for a thinking person life is a comedy. Matt continues to search for a sustainable balance between feeling and thinking.
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