Friends are forever memorial scholarship

“Friends are Forever original members have friendships that span over 65 years. My hope is that each recipient will realize they are now part of an elite group. Perhaps when recipients learn the history behind Friends are Forever, they too will value the importance of having friendships that last a lifetime.”
Neal Matthews,
Hoss Matthews’ son
James Henry “Hoss” Matthews, ’51, served the U.S. Army, including a tour of duty overseas in Korea. He was an expert marksman and earned the Army’s Distinguished Pistol Shot Badge. Beginning in 1993, Hoss and lifelong friend Armor H. Reece, ’53, initiated efforts to form the UNG alumni group Friends are Forever. The organization’s purpose was to bring alumni together to share fellowship founded on North Georgia pride.The Friends are Forever group had been meeting for close to 10 years before George Thurmond, ’56, started attending. The core group graduated from the classes of 1950 to 1952 and many are veterans of the Korean War. “One year, we had a table of eight. One was a four-star general, one was a two-star, one a one-star and the rest of us were O6s, that doesn’t happen very often,” Thurmond recalled. “The brotherhood and bond is really unique, we were all very competitive and we did our best all the time, there are no slackers among us.”

Helping cadets has always come naturally to the Friends are Forever group. With Matthews’ initiative, they would collect funds to support the Corps of Cadets at UNG. They first decided to give leather belts to senior cadets. Then, they noticed that sabers were not provided by state funds, so they would offer cadets engraved sabers with names of members of Friends are Forever who had departed.

Hoss Matthews, ’51
Neal Matthews speaks at the Friends are Forever event on UNG’s Dahlonega Campus in 2018.
When Matthews passed away, Thurmond made sure the group would continue to meet. Hoss left an email list, four sabers and a checking account with $4,000 from those informal fundraisers. “When I started, I tried to find the pattern that Hoss had for scheduling luncheons, only to find out that there was no pattern, he would host events as the spirit moved him,” Thurmond said.Thurmond decided to engrave the remaining sabers with the names of four-star Gen. William J. Livsey, Col. Benjamin H. Purcell, and Company Commander Lamar T. Oxford – whose brother still attends the luncheons. The last saber was engraved with Matthews’ name. His saber, as petitioned by ret. Col. James T. Palmer, commandant of cadets at UNG, was encased and is kept in a display case in the Pennington Military Leadership Center at the Dahlonega Campus.

When Neal Matthews, Hoss Matthews’ son, started a scholarship in honor of his father, the Friends are Forever group unanimously decided to use the $4,000 that had been collected by Hoss to kick off the fundraising efforts. Two years later, the fund has raised more than $22,500 and is close to reaching its endowment goal of $25,000.

To support the Hoss Matthews Friends are Forever Memorial Scholarship Fund, visit or contact the UNG Foundation at 706-867-2876.