Faculty and Staff

Remembering Rick: Loyola Professor Led Life of Curiosity, Passion

Courtesy of Nora MatlandMatland's immune system was compromised due to an autoimmune disease diagnosis in 2008. His family, friends and colleagues remember him as dedicated to his work and caring for others.

Loyola professor Richard Matland,  Ph.D., who taught graduate and undergraduate classes in the political science department, died at age 61 Aug. 12.

Matland was diagnosed with interstitial lung disease in 2008, which led to a lung transplant in 2015. As with most autoimmune diseases, Matland’s condition caused his body to react poorly to bacteria which a healthy immune system would defend against. Matland caught pneumonia before his death, and his immune system was unable to protect him from that bacteria, causing his death.

He is survived by his wife, Aud, and daughters Nora, 30, and Emma, 27.

Nora Matland, who works as a marketing and outreach coordinator at Cornell University, said her father will leave behind an appreciation for academia and he raised his daughters to follow their passions no matter what.

“I feel like I can pursue [a unique interest] and I can pursue it with a lot of scholasticism … because of my dad and the fact that he would really let us,” Nora Matland said.

A Wisconsin native, Matland earned his undergraduate degree in political science and economics in 1977 from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. He went on to earn a master’s degree in public policy and administration from the same school in 1979. He earned his Ph.D. in political science from the University of Michigan in 1991.

Matland’s research has been published in political science journals around the world, including the American Journal of Political Science, and he’s served on editorial boards at several publications, including the American Political Science Review.

Courtesy of Nora Matland

Along with being an accomplished scholar, those close to Matland remember him as a lover of music. Nora Matland said he had a rule that he controlled the music in the car until his daughters reached the age of 16.

In addition to his love of music, Matland was a unique football fan — he rooted for both Wisconsin and Michigan, according to his friend and colleague Olga Avdeyeva, another political science professor at Loyola.

Avdeyeva said people were drawn to Matland both personally and professionally because of his natural curiosity. She said his eagerness to get to know people translated from his relationships to his research and caused him to have many close friends in the political science community.

“He’s interesting because he knew millions of people, personally with their names and families and personal stories,” Avdeyeva said. “When I say millions I probably exaggerate, but I was always fascinated with how many people Rick actually knew.”

Nora Matland said her father’s illness never deterred him from his work and interests.

“He’d had a lung transplant three days ago and he’d be like ‘Oh I’m not reading enough of this book,’ which could be pretty frustrating,” Nora Matland said. “You have like an open back at the moment, you’re in the hospital, for once take it a bit easy, but he just couldn’t because it was so much a part of his life.”

Avdeyeva echoed the same sentiment, adding that his illness only motivated him to enjoy more of what he loved while he could.

“That sort of personal curiosity is something that really pushed him to fight his disease, to fight his health condition,” she said. “But also it really gave him a lot of energy to enjoy life. That’s something that I also learned, that he was very positive … who really loved life.”

In his professional life, Matland had an affinity for working with young students, according to Avdeyeva. He specialized in studying attitudes toward women in politics, which not only inspired his female students but changed how political science is studied, Avdeyeva said.

“People like Professor Matland demonstrated that question of women in politics, minorities in politics,” Avdeyeva said. “They’re very important, important enough that even men can study them. It was breaking the barriers, breaking the stereotypes that he studied himself.”

Monika Novak, who said she knew Matland since she was a graduate student at Loyola, said Matland demonstrated a balance between professional and personal responsibilities and showed unparalleled care for his students.

“He was such a demanding professor, he was a hard worker, but he always cared about people and just thought it was so important to remind us all that there were other things in life than work,” Novak said. “Your family matters, your friends matter and being a decent person matters.”

Courtesy of Loyola University Chicago

Matland served as the dissertation adviser for Dane Wendell, who now works as a political science professor at Illinois College. Wendell said Matland became a friend as well as an adviser, which was shown when Matland did things like celebrate the birth of Wendell’s daughter, which happened in quick succession to a major professional accomplishment for the two.

“I think he cheered for the birth of my daughter and he cheered for my family successes as loud, or with as much energy, as anything professional,” Wendell said. “You could really tell that he cared about me like family and he cared about my family like it was his family.”

Peter Schraeder, chair of Loyola’s political science department, said he remembers Matland as committed to his work and his family.

“In terms of him as an individual, he was very devoted to his wife and family,” Schraeder said.

The Loyola community was notified of Matland’s death in an email from Campus Ministry sent Aug. 15.

Matland’s family held memorial services Saturday in Madison, Wisconsin. His family is collecting donations to two funds within the University of Wisconsin-Madison’s transplant unit in lieu of flowers. The funds can be accessed through links in Campus Ministry’s email.

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