Mark Matheson keeps things in motion. As Hawai‘i Pacific University’s Special Projects and Campus Master Planning Director, he focuses on the long-term goals of the university, speaking to its community members and planning future moves. As a paraplegic athlete, he competes in prone paddleboarding and has gone the long haul, racing from Molokai to Oahu.
As both a planner and athlete, he knows to take in the big picture and push forward.
“I want people to know that I’m providing strategic level focus to help HPU achieve the long range goals for the campus,” he said. “I don’t get pulled down into day to day operational details of running the organization. My role is to keep focus on the end goal, provide planning for the moves, and I’m looking at the moving parts as far out as 2019-2021.”
He appreciates meeting and getting input from faculty, staff and students on everything from optimal classroom sizes, number of computer workstations needed, to how many restroom fixtures will be needed if a floor in a building gets retrofitted.
“I’ve used the analogy that it is like trying to solve two Rubik’s cubes at the same time, since there are so many moving parts and each one impacts another part,” he shared.
Fortunately, Matheson has several decades of project planning and resource management experience, including a 30-year career with a U.S. defense contractor where he started as a temporary employee.
“I literally started as a temp one day as a go-fer, running back and forth making copies of documents for a nuclear weapons meeting. Then another day, I was cleaning out two employee refrigerators.”
He then spent a month in a department which eventually had an opening that he was uniquely qualified to fill. “Rest is history,” said Matheson, who went on to become a manager and vice president at the company.
Although busy with work, he remains dedicated to community service. He has devoted time to various organizations, groups and charities, including AccesSurf Hawaii, Easter Seals, AFCEA Hawaii, the Project Management Institute Honolulu Chapter, and the Navy League.
His time with AccesSurf — a nonprofit that works on ocean access for anyone with a disability — encouraged Matheson take to the waves again, after more than a decade away from surfing. An accident in 1993 left him paralyzed.
“They are the group that got me back in the water surfing again after 14 years.”
He is the only paraplegic to compete in the Molokai-2-Oahu Paddleboard World Championships, competing in the Molokai channel race five times. In 2012, he completed the Molokai race and also the Catalina Classic, another 32-mile race from Catalina Island to Manhattan Beach, California.
While he enjoys competition, it also lets him share the work done by AccesSurf. The organization hosts activities including a “Day at the Beach” program, a free monthly service provided by trained volunteers to introduce adaptive aquatic recreation using specialized equipment to anyone with a physical or cognitive disability. AccesSurf also has a Wounded Warrior program for military personnel with a disability.
Matheson also continues to support opportunities for the disabled as a member of the Easter Seals Hawaii board. He is a former chairman of the organization that is dedicated to ensure that all people with disabilities or special needs and their families have equal opportunities to live, learn work and play in their communities.
Sometimes, as in the case of Matheson, a little opportunity can go a long way — whether it's a temp job or catching a wave from Molokai to Oahu.