By Kathleen Stansbery
Coffee High School
The new Coffee High School performing arts center had its official ribbon cutting and dedication ceremony on Tuesday, June 14, 2022. The performing arts center was dedicated in memory of Clayton W. Mathis and the auditorium was dedicated in memory of John M. Maley. Due to COVID-19, the dedication and ribbon cutting ceremony had been postponed until now. However, this made the event no less special for friends and family of the men honored Tuesday.
Clayton Mathis is known in Coffee County for his commitment to educating boys and girls of our community. His 32 years of service included teaching, coaching, being a central office administrator, being a principal of Coffee Junior High for 12 years, being a principal of Coffee High School for eight years, and finally, being a principal at Ambrose Elementary for four years.
Jeff Martin, a former student and mentee of Mr. Mathis, provided the invocation for the event. In a heartwarming story, he noted Mr. Mathis’s love for guiding and shaping young people both in and out of the school building. “Clayton Mathis was extraordinary,” he said at the end of his story. “He left this world a much better place than when he came. He coached, taught, and administered young minds in such a way that this community, our community, has benefited greatly and beyond measure. We were all part of the Mathis family.” Mr. Mathis passed away May 7, 2016.
John M. Maley’s legacy in Coffee County is in his devotion to the bands in our school system. He built the Coffee High School band from scratch, then called the Comets instead of the Trojans. He oversaw its development into one of the largest and most innovative high school bands in the area at the time. After seven years at the high school, Mr. Maley chose to focus on teaching music at the junior high school and elementary schools. He had a passion and patience for teaching beginner music students.”
Ramona Maley Dennison, one of Mr. Maley’s grandchildren, spoke about her grandfather saying, “He was a gifted musician and a wonderful educator. He could command the attention of a hundred students with just one finger and just one look. Myself, as a Coffee County educator, I’m so proud to carry on this tiny spark of his legacy. To see how thrilled the kids are to use this facility is a real joy.” Mr. Maley passed away October 4, 2004.
The Clayton W. Mathis Performing Arts Center and the John M. Maley Auditorium have already been used by the community for band and chorus concerts, drama performances, honors programs, receptions, speakers, Missoula children's theater, and even the first Douglas Duets and Trashin’ Fashion show. As Mr. Van Allen, Coffee High School's current principal, stated, the center will continue to be used and continue to be a facility our community can be proud of.
Dr. Morris Leis thanked the general public for supporting the E-SPLOST that makes facilities like this one possible. Through the community of Coffee County, the new performing arts center was completely funded and built from E-SPLOST IV. Dr. Leis stated, “We certainly could not have completed these projects without the citizens' support in Coffee County. We want to thank everyone here and everyone in our community for approving and allowing the school district to have the funds to construct this facility for our young people to enjoy for years to come.”