Liriodendron tulipifera flower

The University of North Carolina
A Department of the North Carolina Botanical Garden


Collectors of the UNC Herbarium
The information from the Milestone was provided
by Nancy Matthews and George Sawyer of Coker College.
Additional bibliographic information was compiled by Lisa Giencke.

Velma Dare Matthews
(3 August 1904 – 7 January 1958)

Portrait from 1956 Milestone dedication

B.A. North Carolina College for Women (now University of North Carolina  at Greensboro)

M.A. 1927: Studies on the Saprolegniaceae and the genus Pythium

Ph.D. 1930: Studies on the genera Nematosporangium and Pythium

The University of North Carolina Herbarium has catalogued approximately 400 vascular plant specimens collected by Dr. Matthews.  As only about 10% of the collection is catalogued, no doubt there are many more of her specimens to be found.  About 20 macrofungi collected by Dr. Matthews have been catalogued; label information on NCU’s mycological collection is available at  About a dozen bryophytes collected by Dr. Matthews are catalogued at


Velma Dare Matthews was born in Burlington, Alamance County, North Carolina to Joseph Marvin Matthews (1878-1940) and Cora Daisy Moore Matthews (1882-1931).  She grew up in High Point, Guilford County, North Carolina.1,3

She earned a B.A. from North Carolina College for Women (now University of North Carolina at Greensboro), then earned M.A. and Ph.D. at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill under the direction of Dr. William Chambers Coker.  She was awarded the Smith Prize for Research (Science) at commencement in 1930.2  

She began her teaching career in the Botany Department of Arkansas A & M College.  In 1934 she moved to Coker College in Hartsville, South Carolina, and served as the chair of the Biology Department for twenty-two years, starting in 1935. Dr. Matthews was the first woman to serve as the President of the South Carolina Academy of Science (1946-1947).3 

She died at age 53 in Duke Hospital in Durham, Durham County, North Carolina on 7 January 1958 and is buried in Oakwood Memorial Park Cemetery in High Point, North Carolina.1,3  

From the 1958 Milestone (Coker College yearbook):

"How beautifully feminine she looked in her blue hat that matched her blue eyes" as described by a chapel speaker.

Velma Matthews was head of Coker's Biology Department for twenty-two years. This mental picture will always remain in our minds, for Dr. Matthews was lovely, not only in appearance, but also in life.

A prominent Carolina scientist, Dr. Matthews filled key state and regional offices in a number of scientific organizations, including a 1946-1947 term as the first women president of the South Carolina Academy of Science. She was also author of numerous scientific publications.

She was a leader as well in local community planning and improvement activities. Coker's campus was Dr. Matthew's own personal garden, and we at Coker loved her for the beauty she created and shared with others, for the value she found in people and for the courage of her life.


Dedication to Dr. Matthews in the 1956 Milestone

Article recognizing her dedication in the 1956 Milestone



1.  Velma Dare Matthews.  Find A Grave Memorial #98433321.  accessed on 5 February 2015. 

2.  One Hundred and Thirty-fifth Annual Commencement, Tuesday, June 10, 1930.  University of North Carolina.

3.  UNC Alumni Records. 

   Curriculum in Ecology                 North Carolina Botanical Garden               Biology Department
       Curriculum                               North Carolina                                 UNC

          In Ecology                              Botanical Garden                   Biology Department

University of North Carolina Herbarium
CB# 3280, Coker Hall
University of North Carolina
Chapel Hill, NC 27599-3280
phone: (919) 962-6931
fax: (919) 962-6930

Last Updated: 5 February 2015