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Although Stephanie Mathews (C 06) came to EMU later than many students, she has left her mark during what she calls a “wonderful” experience here.
Mathews is from Woodstock, Va. She lives with her mother and step-father, Rebecca and Paul Murray, who are the founders and pastors of Christian Leadership Ministries, and her brothers Nate and Samuel. Her father and step-mother live in Transfer, Pa., with her step-sister.
Mathews graduated from Central High School in 1998 and went to Liberty University, where she ran track on a scholarship and was a walkon for the basketball team. However, she left after one semester, realizing that it “just wasn’t the right place” for her at the time.
Mathews took off the rest of that year and the next three years and worked at her church. Talking with high school coaches and her family helped her decide to go back to school in 2002 to get her teaching degree and play basketball, which she really began to miss. Mathews came to EMU and graduated cum laude this year with a bachelor of science degree in liberal arts and an early childhood education licensure.
Mathews feels she has received the “best education available” at EMU and feels confident she’s prepared for teaching. “I know that I’ve been equipped to influence my students’ lives in a great way,” she said.
Mathews’ athletic experience hasn’t been as smooth as academics. She had to adjust to three different coaches in four years, and said it was difficult to “continually feel like a freshman who is coming into a new system with something to prove.” However, Mathews said she tried to take the positives from each situation. The opportunities to learn from three different coaches and to also learn “to grow and be successful in the midst of adversity” are aspects of her experience here that she wouldn’t change.
Mathews found that some of her best memories are from her time as an athlete at EMU. The relationships she built with teammates and coaches “will last forever.” She made her individual marks in the record books, finishing second all time in career rebounds (895) and career steals (201) as well as sixth in points (1,213).
She also found team success, particularly in winning the Old Dominion Athletic Championship in 2004. Continuing on to the NCAA Division III Sweet Sixteen was “one of the most memorable experiences” of her life. “I can’t quite describe the feeling,” Mathews said, “but it is an amazing thing to know that your team is one of the best 16 basketball teams in the United States (D III) at that particular time.”
Asked how her experiences as a student and an athlete relate, Mathews referred to the speech she gave at this year’s senior athletic banquet in which she focused on teamwork. She said that what impresses her most about EMU is the teamwork that is visible “in every area of the school…There is a great spirit of teamwork present in all that goes on at EMU.”
Mathews has accepted a job teaching second grade in Shenandoah County. She wants to coach basketball in the future, noting: “I could never stay away from it for too long. It’s a part of who I am.” Mathews also said she will always be a basketball player, even if it may only be at the park in Woodstock. “That’s where I’ve had some of my best battles!” she said.
Mathews is thankful to have spent four years at EMU. “To everyone who has affected my life during my time here,” she said, “Thanks for letting me be a part of your team.”