Mattivi, Donald Vern, Sr.
(1927 – 2016)
Born and raised in the Blackhawk-Central City area, Don relocated to Indian Hills in 1969 to accept a teaching position at Evergreen High School. He’d taught at Gilpin County High School for 16 years and was principal for 4 years. When they closed the school, he took at job as principal of a school in Byers, CO for 2 years prior to 1969.
He found teaching at Evergreen High School to be quite different from teaching farm kids. “Here, parents wanted kids educated,” he said. “Nowhere else in the state could beat Evergreen for a place to teach.” He taught in Evergreen until retiring in 1985.
When he first started at EHS in 1969, there were approximately 750 students, a population that would grow to 1,700 before splitting into two high schools (Conifer being the other).
For 50 years during the summers Don worked on old homes through his business Gilpin County Construction.
Don taught social studies and was head of the department. He also coached basketball, football, and track – something that brought with it great rewards in seeing students become high athletic achievers. One of his students, Pat Porter, went to the Olympics in 1984 as a 10K runner and took Mattivi with him. Porter was a six-time all-American in distance running. Student Bob Fink was a four-time all-American long-distance runner. Another student, Jimmy Knoll, competed in a pentathlon (10 events) and still holds the distinction of being the only person to win the event two years in a row.
He “started everyone running,” Don explained, thinking it was good for their health. During the 1970s and 80s, Don formed three groups: High Country Runners, the Evergreen Town Race, and Alpine Runners.
In 1985 Mattivi was named Teacher of the Year for the Mountain area of the Jefferson County School District.
For 8 or 10 years, Mattivi worked with Gene Younger in the Building Trades Program, in which a home was built each year from start to finish entirely by high school students. “It met the needs of some students that were not met in the classroom. Some of these students were potential dropouts,” he said. The program was eliminated after Younger retired.
A vocational training program developed whereby students were placed in metro-area businesses as apprentices or interns – electrical, automotive, carpentry, welding, cooking, in law offices, refinishing of automobiles. Mattivi was on the road three days each week checking on the kids. He recalled one student with a job in the Denver stockyards in which an intern drew blood from dead animals, which was then sent to Coors to make an especially strong glue. The vocational program was eliminated during a series of budget cuts around 2000.
Student Council / Closeup
Mattivi served as head of the Student Council, and during the mid-70s he played a part in starting the After-Prom Party, an all-night party that continued until 6 am after the prom. At that time, the party was held at a different school in the district each year. It would later become an annual event at EHS just for EHS students. “Merchants contributed so much.” One year they used cranes to lower three hottubs into the Senior Pit, something that caused skepticism amongst some; use of the hottubs was strongly supervised, he noted.
Mattivi was one of the sponsors of the Closeup program for students in government studies. Fifty youngsters from EHS traveled to Washington, DC, for a week as part of a much larger group of 400 from across the nation. Marines conducted and coordinated the tour that enabled students to meet their elected representatives, Supreme Court judges, and other distinguished individuals such as Senator Ted Kennedy. Mattivi recalled that Evergreen businessmen sponsored some of the students anonymously.
When Bootstraps started in about 1979, Don Mattivi was a key member of the board, serving in the capacity of recommending students for consideration of being awarded interest-free students loans.
The program sought out students who often had aspirations to pursue education other than a four-year college, wouldn’t qualify for scholarships, and in many cases, didn’t come from families that encouraged their children to continue their education. (Read more here.)
Board members were teamed with students as mentors, keeping in touch with them throughout their years of higher education and, in many cases, throughout their lives. Again, local banks and businessmen very quietly contributed to the loan program.