Former world junior ice dance champion completes degree in economics
The fierceness and focus Morgan Matthews displayed as a competitive ice dancer helped her and partner Maxim Zavozin capture two U.S. junior titles and the world junior championship in 2005. Those same qualities aided her in her latest pursuit as well: Last Friday, she graduated from Wellesley College with a degree in economics.
Matthews, whose skating took her to several places, including Northern Virginia and Delaware, moved to Massachusetts after she finished her competitive career in 2009. She enrolled in Massachusetts Bay Community College, taking math and science courses, and began coaching skating.
Her goal was to earn a bachelor’s degree, and three years ago she was admitted to Wellesley as a Davis Scholar, a special category for non-traditional students. She said Wellesley wasn’t originally on her radar because she didn’t think she could get in; she didn’t take the SATs and finished high school with a GED.
“I was pretty serious about going back to school; I just wasn’t sure how it was all going to work,” Matthews, 29, said. “I learned about the (Davis Scholar) program and (how) it was possible to get in with other accomplishments.”
While she enjoyed coaching and choreography — both of which she excelled at — Matthews knew she wanted to explore areas outside of skating.
“When I went to community college, I realized that my work ethic actually transferred over very well,” she said. “Whenever we skaters go into something in life and we’re taking it seriously, we give it 100 percent.”
The process of learning, studying and taking exams was similar to training and competing, and — just like when she skated — she thrived under pressure. Problem solving was exhilarating, and Matthews, who had always pegged herself as an artsy sort, found she really liked math.
Being older than many of her fellow students, Matthews said she mostly blended in and didn’t feel a big generation gap. (The Davis Scholars do have on-campus housing together and hold their own events.) She rarely spoke about her skating past.
“I wasn’t really interested in going to lots of parties or that aspect of the social life,” she said. “I really wanted to be able to go to a class and hear a really interesting lecture and then afterwards meet up with a fellow student and discuss all the things that we thought were interesting. (I wanted to) have an intellectual community to engage with, and I found that.
“I also found the Davis Scholars community was really tight-knit, and it was a really good support system for me.”
Having learned to speak Russian while she skated with Zavozin, Matthews took two years of the language at Wellesley, focusing on becoming more articulate in her writing. She even discussed skating terms with her first professor, who was amused by the translations of some of the terminology.
Matthews continues to coach at the Skating Club of Boston. She is cautious about overexerting herself — the hip injury that ended her skating career persists, and she said she will eventually need a hip replacement — but she still wants to keep her hand in the sport.
“I have to keep [involved in skating],” she said. “I don’t think I’m capable of fully disengaging. I’ll still teach. Then, we’ll see. Maybe I’ll do technical specialist camp to see different parts of the sport.”
Graduation was a special experience. In addition to her parents, her 90-year-old grandfather made the trip.
In July, she’ll begin a job at a finance company in Boston. In the meantime, she’ll coach and move into a new apartment.
While her life has taken some unexpected turns, Matthews is happy she was open to reinventing herself.
She said, “Throwing yourself in the deep end is sometimes the very best way to find out what you’re capable of.”