Dr. Matthew Prophet, Jr.
Lt. Colonel, U.S. Army (Retired)
Former Superintendent ,
Portland, Oregon Public School
Matthew had an illustrious military career, rising from private in 1951 to the rank of lieutenant colonel at his retirement in 1971. He has served as a tactical and personal management advisor to the Republic of Vietnam, military advisor to the Ohio National Guard, nuclear weapons employment officer and unit commander of American forces in Germany, artillery officer for various United Nations units in Korea, and chief of individual training for the Fifth United States Army. During his military career, he received some twenty-eight awards and decorations to include the Legion of Merit and the Bronze State.
On April 1, 1982, Matthew Prophet was appointed to the superintendency of the Portland Public Schools. He came to Portland from the superintendency of the Lansing School District in Michigan, a post he held since 1978.His experience as a public school administrator was as Deputy Superintendent of the Lansing system from 1972-1978, a post he held after serving in 1971-1972 as a fellow in the National Program for Education Leadership.
His career in education also included service as a commissioner, State of Michigan Tenure commission; board member, Institute for Educational Leadership; advisor to the College Board, and member of the National Assessment Governing Board.
Dr. Prophet is a past president of the Large City Schools Superintendents organization for the United States and Canada. He holds a post doctoral certificate from the U.S. Office of Education, a PhD in educational supervision and administration from Northwestern University, a master’s degree in the same subject from Roosevelt University and a bachelor’s degree in the general education from the University of Omaha. He was also appointed by the governor of the State of Oregon and confirmed by the Oregon Senate to serve on the Oregon Progress Board.
Under Matt’s leadership, Portland’s students made remarkable academic progress. For example, African-American students achieved a sixty-five percent improvement in mathematics and a forty-three percent improvement in reading. Hispanic-American students also achieved similar gains. Also the percentage of black high school graduates choosing to enter higher education after graduation from high school, rose from forty-nine percent in 1987 to eighty percent in 1991.
During Dr. Prophet’s superintendency, Portland’s dropout rate was among the lowest in the nation for urban school districts. In fact, its dropout rate was approximately the same as the as the state of Oregon, a particularly significant accomplishment earn one considers that Portland serve the largest concentration of minority, poor and disadvantage students within Oregon. Also in 1991, as measured by the National Assessment Governing Board, Oregon’s economically disadvantaged students (of which Portland constituted a significant percentage) were ranked number one in the nation amongst the thirty-seven states tested in basic academic skills.
In recognition of his outstanding leadership for the Portland Public Schools, Matt was selected in 1992 as Portland’s first citizen.
Similarly, in appreciation of Matt’s successful tenure as Portland’s Superintendency, on May 23, 1993, Whitman College in Walla Walla, Washington awarded Dr. Prophet an Honorary Degree of Doctor of Education and Lewis and Clark College in Portland, Oregon, on June 15, 1993, awarded him an Honorary Degree of Doctor Humane Letter.
Dr. Matthew Prophet was a role model to many of us living and growing up in Oregon, especially to me. I’ve often thought about him throughout my life, and I just thought about him today and found this biographical sketch. It is amazing to me that Oregon was very forward -thinking in bringing Dr. Prophet to the Portland Public School District. I am a product of his leadership in the PPS educational system, from age 10 until I graduated in 1990 (age 17). One important time in my life was in trying to attend college and looking for funding. He was responsible for getting a few executives on his team to meet on my behalf to discuss how I would attend and fund my college education. That immediate and dedicated attention to help me achieve greater opportunities, continues to drive me to empower and uplift people to a higher level and standard throughout my college and professional career.
I am not surprised to read about the impact and progress his leadership had in improving the educational system in Portland, motivating all students, including students of color to a higher magnitude.
Thank you Dr. Matthew Prophet!
Zeenab A. Fowlk
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You do not know me but your mother was my piano teacher in Okolona, Miss. She was a great teacher. Also, my father, Lee Andrew Gates, spoke well of you. He went into the Army, too. I heard of your accomplishments from him.
Evelyn Gates Gardiner