Connie Matsui says she retired in 2009, but there’s a qualification – she retired specifically from “full-time, paid work.”
Retirement for Matsui is busier than the working lives of many people. She seems to be constantly in motion, whether traveling to India for a meeting of one of the many nonprofit board she serves on, or guiding the board meetings of the two for-profit biotech firms whose boards she chairs.
Her philanthropic work has not gone unnoticed. On Nov. 14, National Philanthropy Day, she will receive an award for her volunteer service from the Association of Fundraising Professionals San Diego Chapter at an event to be held at the Del Mar Fairgrounds.
“It’s a tremendous honor,” said Matsui, 63, a Rancho Santa Fe resident, of the award. She said she didn’t seek the recognition, but, “it’s nice nonetheless to shine a light not only on my work but on the organizations I’ve been privileged to work with.”
Matsui is immediate past president of the San Diego Foundation’s Board of Governors, and she also serves on the boards of San Diego Grantmakers, the Balboa Park Conservancy and the World Association of Girl Guides and Girl Scouts, which works with 150 Girl Scout organizations around the world. Recently she traveled to New Delhi, India, to attend the association’s world conference, which is held every three years.
She’s also served on the board of the Girl Scouts of the USA, including a stint as that group’s chairperson.
Matsui retired in 2009 from Biogen Idec., Inc., where she held the post of executive vice president. She worked at Biogen Idec for about 16 years, and previously, she spent 16 years as an executive at Wells Fargo Bank. She holds B.A. and MBA degrees from Stanford, and it was during business school that she met her husband, Bill Beckman.
Both Matsui and Beckman, who have two grown children, believe strongly in public service, Matsui said.
A former president of the Rancho Santa Fe Association board, Beckman is now focused on his work with the Association’s Forest Health and Preservation Committee, which is studying how to re-forest Rancho Santa Fe.
When she retired from Biogen Idec, said Matsui, she thought about what she wanted to do, and decided she would look for opportunities to work with highly motivated individuals to make a difference in the community.
“That led me to the foundation space,” she said.
In her work with the San Diego Foundation, she has particularly enjoyed helping the organization with its long-range strategic planning, and listening to the ideas of community members, board and staff.
“If you start with that base, you can create a bridge to a future that will hopefully be even more fulfilling,” she said.
She also served on a committee that searched for a new CEO for the foundation when a previous chief executive left the organization.
Matsui is the daughter of Japanese-American parents who worked as a maid and gardener for a wealthy family. Her family lived in the employers’ home, which afforded Matsui and her sister access to a quality education while they were growing up.
There weren’t many minority women in the banking industry when she started out in the late ’70s, Matsui said, and she recalled an occasion when a senior executive requested she meet with him. The man told her she was “too short, too quiet and too ethnic to succeed at Wells.”
“Maybe he thought he was doing me a favor, but to tell me to my face was an indication of where he was at,” Matsui said.
Of course, the man’s prediction proved wrong, as Matsui went on to have a successful management career at Wells Fargo.
Matsui’s son now works in San Francisco and her daughter is starting business school at UC Davis.
“We are an all MBA family,” she said.
Matsui expects her daughter will have a much different experience when she enters the business world.
For her part, she said, she has tried not to take the pre-conceived notions of others personally.
“I strive to make a more human or intellectual connection with people,” she said. “I like to remove barriers to understanding, and finding common interests and common goals.”