Impact of Giving
Matheson Lecture Series Created through Giving Enriches Business Law Instruction and Leaves a Lasting Legacy
While attending the University of Minnesota Law School, Dean Matheson ’08 made a crucial decision that would shape his career—merging his competing interests in business and legal education into a single law degree. He also decided to follow in the footsteps of his father, Professor John Matheson, a corporate and business law faculty member of 40 years who directs the Corporate Institute.
So, when Dean and Diana Matheson, who live in southern California, decided to make a gift to Minnesota Law and establish an annual lecture to enrich the student experience, they named it in honor of John’s commitment to his role as a professor.
“My dad has been at Minnesota Law for a long time,” Dean says. “He’s very passionate about what he does.”
The annual Matheson Lecture in Corporate Governance, established last year within the Corporate Institute, hosts a speaker with expertise on a major corporate or legal topic that is either professionally important or relevant to major events of the time. The inaugural lecture in this series, which took place in October, featured Peter Carter ’91, executive vice president, chief legal officer, and corporate secretary of Delta Air Lines. Carter spoke about a very timely topic: navigating Delta through the turbulence of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“He gave a lot of insight into some of the real-world implications of the pandemic and the decisions that he and the company had to make to navigate through something that none of us had ever experienced before,” Dean says. “We’re looking forward to having more speakers in similar positions to talk about their day-to-day work or a topic important to them or a prominent in the country at this time.”
Dean, who is now vice president and chief legal officer at the electronics manufacturing company Multek, recalls his time in law school fondly, especially his interactions with the faculty and his fellow students. He appreciated his professors’ instruction but also their influence outside of the law school, serving as experts in their field. On two occasions, Dean even had his father as a professor.
An atmosphere of friendly competition surrounded him and his fellow students. They all got along well, he recalls, and would push each other to learn more and perform better— an encouraging dynamic that is not represented in every law school. He keeps in touch with many of them today.
Diana, who grew up in New Mexico, also pursued a corporate and business law focus during her studies at the University of California’s Hastings College of the Law. The law program had a strong emphasis on civic duty and offered many clinics designed to give law students real-world experience while providing a service to the community. She most recently practiced real estate law, before turning her attention a few years ago to raising their children.
Diana was enthusiastic to support Minnesota Law through giving because she saw how Dean’s experience there resonated with what she found meaningful during her time at UC Hastings.
“I also had a couple of influential professors who supported and guided me through my path at law school,” she says. “So, I was especially excited to get involved with Minnesota Law and have an opportunity to expand students’ corporate law education there.”
Beyond simply supporting the Law School, Dean and Diana wanted to highlight the work of the Corporate Institute, which offers a range of opportunities that prepare students for successful careers and leadership roles in business. Its Business Law Clinic, for example, gives students a chance to work with startup companies and entrepreneurs, while the corporate externship program places students in a local company’s legal department to experience in-house legal counsel work. The opportunity to represent business clients helps students prepare for a career in corporate law.
Dean counts himself lucky to have had a lawyer in his family. While many of his classmates took for granted the idea that a legal education must lead to a career in litigation, Dean had the opportunity to see how business law provided another option for leveraging his law degree. For most students, the Corporate Institute serves as the first introduction to another path forward.
“One of the important roles that the institute played is it gave some of my fellow colleagues an opportunity to see what other avenues there were for students who were getting a law degree,” he says. “It really opened up some of their eyes to the idea that litigation wasn’t the only option.”
Today, in addition to maintaining his personal connections and the faculty role his father continues to hold, Dean remains connected to the Minnesota Law community through giving. He and Diana both believe that organizations with a culture of giving benefit the people who are part of the organization in many ways.
“We both believe it’s important to give back, either in resources or
in time, where possible,” he says. “For me, being an alum, it’s important to help Minnesota Law continue to provide students with a top-notch legal education and help ensure Minnesota remains one of the leading law schools in the country.”
Kevin Coss is a Twin Cities-based freelance writer.