Friends of the Smokies elects new board chair

Dan Matthews

Dan Matthews

The board of directors of Friends of Great Smoky Mountains National Park is honored to announce the election of the Rev. Dr. Daniel P. Matthews of Waynesville, N.C., as its new chair. Dr. Matthews began his chairmanship on Jan. 1, 2011. He is a longtime supporter of the organization and a board member since 2009.

Dr. Matthews says of his election as Friends of the Smokies’ board chair, “Having grown up in Haywood County on the North Carolina border of the park, my childhood memories of family outings in the Smokies are rich. It is a privilege to be elected as chair of this wonderful non-profit board and to join Superintendent Dale Ditmanson and thousands of supporters who, through the Friends, give generously to help preserve our treasured national park.”

Dr. Matthews and his wife, Deener, own and operate the Swag Country Inn on the border of Great Smoky Mountains National Park near Waynesville, N.C. He is rector emeritus of New York City’s Trinity Episcopal Church on Wall Street, and currently serves as trustee and co-chair of the Development Committee for The Cathedral Church of St. John the Divine in New York City. His long career as a clergyman with the Episcopal Church includes twenty years of service in the State of Tennessee, including St. John’s Cathedral in Knoxville, Church of the Holy Communion in Memphis, and St. David’s, Nashville.

Dr. Matthews’ tenure with Trinity included serving as an advocate for and commentator on the church’s post-September 11th mission which included a 24-hour center of refuge and relief for 8 months after the attack. He was awarded the Order of the British Empire in recognition of his leadership during that period.

“My staff and I are extremely pleased to see Dan appointed as the Friends’ new Board Chairman.” Ditmanson said, “His many years in the non-profit sector have given him a broad understanding of the philanthropic environment. If you combine that business acumen with his background as a clergyman, and the experience of operating a business tailored to guests who come to immerse themselves in the Smokies, you get a leader who profoundly inspires people to love and protect the natural and cultural resources that the Friends were created to preserve.”

He succeeds Mark K. Williams, president and managing shareholder of the Knoxville law firm of Young, Williams, Kirk and Stone, PC, whose extremely successful four years as board chair saw the establishment of the Smokies’ Trails Forever program. In 2008, Friends of the Smokies received a challenge to match a $2 million grant from the Aslan Foundation to establish the $4 million Trails Forever endowment fund. Interest from the endowment will fund a permanent trail improvements crew in Great Smoky Mountains National Park to help enhance the park’s 800+ miles of hiking trails.

Friends of the Smokies’ founding board chair was Justice Gary R. Wade of Sevierville. Under Justice Wade’s leadership, the organization grew from 150 charter members in 1993 to more than 4,000 members and the annual support of tens of thousands more who purchase the Friends of the Smokies specialty license plates in North Carolina and Tennessee.

Other changes to the board of Friends of the Smokies include the election of Nancy Daves of Knoxville as a director. Stephen W. Woody of Asheville, founding vice chair, now serves as treasurer. Dale Keasling of Knoxville is vice chair, and Knoxville’s Kay Clayton is the board secretary. For more information, visit the organization’s website at

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