Getting to know...Dan Mathewson
Dan Mathewson is an associate professor of religion at Wofford College who happens to play hockey. He is a wrestling fan with refined literary tastes (friends call him a “fiction snob”). Clearly he is a man accustomed to breaking both holds and molds.
“My elitism when it comes to novels is counterbalanced by my love of pro wrestling,” laughs Mathewson, who has two homes, an apartment a mile or so from campus and a house in Charlotte. This arrangement gives his two rescue mutts, Happy and Muffin, a “city home” and a “country home.” When Mathewson’s wife, Naho, is out of town, he and his dogs live right here in Spartanburg.
Mathewson grew up in Toronto, where hockey is a rite of passage for young men. He has played the sport since he was 5 years old. Later in life he played for the Duke hockey team and he continues to play men’s roller hockey now. He still dreams one day of playing in the National Hockey League, and claims he works at Wofford simply to fund his hockey training regimen.
Hockey was put on hold when he moved to Zimbabwe in 1995, where he lived with a family and taught religion courses at a rural parish school. There weren’t many big game animals around, just “lots and lots of snakes.”
“My Zimbabwean mom said there were elephants around when she was a kid, but poachers had chased them away,” says Mathewson. “The one animal she said everyone was afraid of was the ostrich, believe it or not. She said they were mean and they chased after kids.”
While the locals fear large flightless birds, apparently fear of snakes is an American phobia.
“My students caught a black mamba and a cobra,” Mathewson said. “Not me. I would go jogging along these wide open paths with my eyes constantly searching for snakes. There was one area of tall grass I had to run through and I kept thinking one day I would step on a cobra, but I never did.”
Mathewson left the snakes behind and returned to America, where he obtained a Ph.D. at Emory in Atlanta. Wofford was just a three hour drive up Interstate 85 from there…a hop, skip and jump compared to his prior travels.
Mathewson teaches a class on death and dying at Wofford in which students work in pairs to learn the death rites of different religions, from Aztec to Hindu. He also has taught an Interim class on the cultural significance of pro wrestling with Matt Cathey.
The last thing you need to know about Dan Mathewson is that, true to his pro wrestling roots, he loves to issue a challenge. While reading that fellow professor Dr. Dave Pittman (psychology) once recorded a rap album, Mathewson pointed out that he and Jim Neighbors, associate professor of English, were singled out by the Old Gold and Black when they performed on a CD as “The White Wofford Gangsta Doctors.”
“Neighbors and I would love to have a freestyle battle with Pittman,” says Mathewson. “He’s nothing but a psycho-babbling chump.”