For UF honoree, life's all about preservation


Roy Graham, director of preservation programs for the College of Design, Construction and Planning, presents the Beinecke-Reeves Distinguished Achievement Award to Janet Snyder Matthews of Sarasota at UF's president's house on Thursday.

MORGAN PETROSKI/The Gainesville Sun
Published: Thursday, March 1, 2007 at 8:34 p.m.
Last Modified: Thursday, March 1, 2007 at 12:00 a.m.

Sun staff writer

Janet Snyder Matthews, a Sarasota resident who has led efforts to preserve historic buildings and resources across the state and nation, was recognized Thursday by the University of Florida for her work.

Mathews, associate director for cultural resources of the National Park Service, was given the Beinecke-Reeves Distinguished Achievement Award by UF's College of Design, Construction and Planning. The award is the highest honor for preservation given by the college, which in 1968 became one of the first colleges in the nation to begin formally teaching historic preservation.

Matthews is the "keeper" of the National Register of Historic Places, overseeing documentation related to the 80,000 listings that comprise the register. As keeper, Matthews is authorized to determine if properties are eligible for listing on the register.

Matthews, who received the award at a ceremony held at the UF president's house on W. University Avenue, said it was a great honor. The award is named in part for the late Walter Beinecke, an heir to the S&H Green Stamp fortune who famously revived the island of Nantucket through preservationist savvy and business sense. The award shares its name with Blair Reeves, a professor emeritus at UF who pioneered the preservation curriculum at the university.

"It's overwhelming," she said. "They're both giants in the field of historic preservation."

At a ceremony attended by about 40 of Matthews' colleagues, friends and fellow leaders in preservation, Mathews stressed the importance of documenting the history of buildings so that they can qualify for the protections provided by the National Register.

"It all starts with documentation," she said.

UF's campus historic district, which includes more than 20 buildings, was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1989.

Matthews works in Washington, D.C., but keeps a home in Sarasota with her husband, Lamar Matthews, an attorney.

As a historian with a keen interest in preserving the state's heritage, Matthews has written extensively about Florida.

She has written, among other books, "Sarasota Over my Shoulder," which looked at the city's history.

Roy Graham, director of preservation programs for the College of Design, Construction and Planning, was a member of a four-person committee that selected Matthews for the award.

"She was the obvious choice," Graham said. "We want somebody (to have the award) who has really made a difference in historic preservation."

UF first gave the award in 2004 to Bonnie Burnham, president of the World Monuments Fund, a private nonprofit group that protects endangered architectural and cultural sites around the world. Marshall Criser, past president of UF, received the award last year.

Matthews holds a Ph.D. in American history from Florida State University, along with masters degrees from both FSU and Ohio State University.

Though she's been educated by some of UF's biggest football rivals, Matthews has ties to UF, having worked as a residence hall adviser on the campus in the 1960s.

Before taking her position with the National Park Service, Mathews served as the director of the division of historical resources at the Florida Department of State and as the state historic preservation officer.

During her tenure as division director, from 1999 to 2003, Matthews served as one of five state agency representatives who helped select land acquisition projects for Florida Forever, the world's largest conservation land-buying program.

Through Florida Forever, the state has protected more than 535,643 acres of land with $1.8 billion of dedicated funding, according to the Department of Environmental Education.

Jack Stripling can be reached at 374-5064 or Jack.Stripling@gvillesun.com

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