DENTON, TX – In a story of remarkable resilience and determination, Ryan Matthews, a former death row inmate wrongfully convicted of murder, graduates from Texas Woman’s University (TWU) with a Master of Business Administration (MBA) degree, specialized in business analytics, on December 15.
At the age of 17, Matthews was wrongfully convicted and spent five years on death row in Louisiana. His life took a hopeful turn in 2004 when DNA evidence proved his innocence, leading to his exoneration. Nearly two decades after his release, Matthews is set to take control of his life, which was once on the brink of being irrevocably altered.
Matthews’ journey toward education intensified following his release. Facing obstacles such as lack of work experience and educational qualifications, he embarked on a mission to overcome these barriers. “I’m just trying to remove all the obstacles,” Matthews shared, highlighting his dedication to education as a transformative force in his life.
While working night shifts as a machine operator, Matthews pursued his studies at TWU, demonstrating remarkable perseverance. He completed a bachelor of applied arts and sciences degree in 2019 and returned for his MBA, aiming to enhance his marketability in the professional world. Sundays became his days for recharging, involving meditation and exercise.
Despite the challenges, including his family’s displacement by Hurricane Katrina, Matthews remains optimistic and forward-looking. His sister, Monique Lee-Coleman, inspired by her brother’s experience, pursued a degree in criminal justice at TWU. She nudged Matthews towards Denton, a decision that proved pivotal in his academic journey.
Matthews’ story has been a source of inspiration for his family. His mother, Pauline Matthews, is pursuing a degree in social work, and his sister, working towards her doctorate in family studies at TWU. His niece, Ryen, named after him, is also a student at TWU, aiming for a career as a civil rights attorney.
Looking beyond his graduation, Matthews is considering a career in banking and has already lined up several interviews. However, his aspirations extend beyond the professional sphere. He expresses a desire to engage in activism, “I want to be the voice for the people that can’t speak for themselves,” he asserts, emphasizing the importance of sharing his story to highlight the reality of wrongful convictions.
Matthews’ graduation marks not only a personal achievement but also a symbol of unwavering determination and the power of education in transforming lives. His future plans include traveling, possibly to Greece or Italy, and continuing his activism work. As he steps across the graduation stage, Matthews embodies a spirit of hope and the unwavering support of his family, who see him as an inspiration and a testament to the human spirit’s resilience.