Bill and Norma Matthews, who have been married for 67 years, were honored with the Eleanor Roosevelt Lifetime Achievement Award.
This honor, given by the United Nations Association Dallas Chapter, is one of many presented to individuals and organizations who promote the United Nations’ 17 Sustainable Development Goals by promoting peace and well-being.
“This award means so much to us because Eleanor Roosevelt is our idol,” Norma told Juliette Fowler Communities, where she and her husband have lived since 2016. At Juliette Fowler, they lead worship music and participate in the Resident Council and other committees.
The Matthewses have served as past presidents of the United Nations Association Dallas Chapter.
In 2014, they started working on a book, Hope Over Fear: Bridges Toward a Better World, which was published in 2017 and tells the history of the Dallas Chapter. They sorted through 10 boxes of photographs, notes and materials and conducted interviews, focusing on Raymond Nasher, former Mayor Annette Strauss and Vivian Castleberry. Juliette Fowler Communities provided space and tables for the couple to use throughout the research process.
A copy of the book was provided to every school library in Dallas County.
Norma and Bill met during their senior year of high school in Marfa, Texas, in Bill’s mother’s English class. With financial help from a Baptist minister, Norma studied English and education and Baylor University. She later became an English as a second language teacher.
Bill went to Texas Western College (now the University of Texas at El Paso), Sul Ross College and graduated from Texas Christian University with a bachelor’s degree in radio/speech. He also attended Brite Divinity School at TCU and served at Methodist churches in Fort Worth; Las Cruces, New Mexico; and Dallas and Sherman while he was becoming an ordained deacon.
Then, he received a bachelor of divinity at the Perkins School of Theology at Southern Methodist University and became an ordained elder in full connection, North Texas Conference of the United Methodist Church.
The couple was commissioned as Methodist missionaries in 1964 and moved to the Philippines, where they lived with their four children for four years. While there, Bill worked in radio and mass communication for the National Council of Churches, and Norma taught deaconesses at Harris Memorial College.
They moved back to Texas and earned master’s degrees — Norma in ESL and Bill in communication. Then their family moved to Fiji, and Bill was a consultant in religion communication. After a decade, they moved back to the Dallas area.
Bill was an associate pastor at University Park United Methodist Church and vice president at the Methodist Mission Home in San Antonio. He also worked at Perkins School of Theology, the North Texas Conference and Highland Park United Methodist Church. Norma was a bilingual teacher at Dallas ISD and was twice named the district’s teacher of the year — in 1986 at David Crockett Elementary and in 1996 at Ignacio Zaragoza Elementary.
During their retirement, they have worked with the Greater Dallas Community of Churches, the Russian Leadership program of the United States Library of Congress, Dallas Peace Center, Interfaith Council of the Thanksgiving Square Foundation, the Park Cities Rotary Club and more.
They have received the Arnold Goodman Lifetime Achievement Award and the Peace Patron Award.
Bill was inducted into the 1999 class of the United Methodists Communicators Hall of Fame and received the Norvell Slater Lifetime Communicator Award, DFW Sikh Community Honors and the Col. Robert Q. Smith Club Service Award.
The Matthewses have four daughters, seven grandchildren and four great-grandchildren.