Remembering Clay: Messages from Family and Friends

I had the wonderful opportunity to work for the Mathile Institute for Advancement of Human Nutrition. During my time there, I travel to Guatemala with Clay and his lovely wife, Mary. We visited the many schools that the Mathiles supported and it was beautiful to see how much they both cared for one another and for the children they were helping thrive. I remember Clay as being so warm and kind but with a sharp mind and quick wit. I was nervous flying in a private jet (it was my first time). He noticed and asked me if I was ok. I really appreciated his concern and it just speaks to the kindness he showed everyone. The world has lost a unique, generous and gentle soul. He will be deeply missed by so many. My heartfelt condolences to the family.

~ Jami Vass

I first met Clay when my mother, Anita Wray, introduced me to him several years after the Iams Company was sold to P&G. She was the Director of HR at Iams, and Clay’s willingness to meet with her 17-year-old son—me—changed my life. I didn’t appreciate it at the time, but it's incredible that, given how busy someone in his position was, he took the time to speak with me as I was just entering high school and starting to think about my path in this world. I remember in that first meeting; he told me his story of building Iams and how one's life is truly limited only by their imagination. After this first meeting, I asked Clay if he would be okay with me staying in touch, sharing what I was up to, and asking for advice on business and life along the way. He said yes, and from then on, we would get breakfast at Bob Evans or have lunch at Aileron three to four times a year. I always looked forward to those conversations, sharing my thoughts, and getting Clay’s advice and insights. I shared several dozen business ideas with him during these conversations, all of which he encouraged me to think about in terms of key assumptions and then try them out. As a young, aspiring entrepreneur, this encouragement from Clay, who had been so successful in his entrepreneurial endeavors, instilled a confidence in me that I really could do anything. It was incredibly powerful and motivating to have someone I respected so much tell me that I could do it. As I moved on to college and started my first company away from Dayton, we continued to get together for these meals each time I came back for the holidays. Clay coached me through the growth and sale of my first company. He encouraged me to think bigger and believe that anything was possible. Along the way, he shared countless lessons and experiences he had, both in business and in life. We talked tactically about business, and he shared lessons from his time at Iams, but we spoke even more about the importance of family, community, and culture. It was clear to me from Clay that the “tactics” didn’t make the business or the family; it was the connection and culture with employees, communities, friends, and family that made a business, or a life, successful. The more I’ve interacted with those who knew Clay, the more I realize that he was like this with many young entrepreneurs. It was his passion to inspire, motivate, and empower entrepreneurs, something embodied in Aileron. Clay clearly made tremendous impacts in his life, but I suspect that the greatest was setting an example of how to inspire others. This legacy is something that will ripple on for generations, as so many that Clay inspired, and taught to inspire, will do the same with countless others.

~ Evan Wray and Family

In 2013, I moved to Cincinnati from New York, to open an investment banking practice in Cincinnati. I had never lived in Cincinnati, knew absolutely no one and stumbled into a Chamber of Commerce meeting at the Hyatt Regency where 700 people were having lunch. I saw one open seat at a table near the front and I sat down. I introduced myself to the person on my left and it was Clay. I had inadvertantly joined Clay's table and he was the keynote speaker. Clay politely got up, made his address and allowed me to listen from my front row seat. I learned a lot about Clay that day and after his presentation, he invited me to Aileron, which I accepted. Going thru the Aileron process, I met many great companies, was invited to join company boards and made many lasting friends and relationships that came from that chance meeting 10 years ago. I was always appreciative of Clay's message and purpose and his willingness to extend appreciation and assistance to others.

~ Leo Whitt

Clay could speak for hours about his lessons in business, philanthropy and growing assets. However, my favorite conversations with him were hearing him speak about his children, grandchildren and his excursions such as trips to Alaska. I always thought he was a man who truly enjoyed life and having people around him. He always remembered what was important and in that. left a legacy of how to enjoy the world around him. Rest in peace and thank you for the life lessons.

~ Bob Reeves

I wanted to share my condolences to the Mathile family on their loss of one of the greatest persons ever lived. I also wanted to acknowledge his family who are all Good people with high Values and Integrity. I have had the pleasure of working with Clay and the family for over 30 years, starting with Iams in 1985 and other business interest to include Riverain, ooVoo, Aileron and The Mathile Institute. Clay’s belief in people to do the best they can be and treating people with dignity and respect was apparent in everything he did. An example of this was his philosophy on paying employees more than other companies and in return, employees will more than pay you back in loyalty, quality and productivity. I recall my employment interview with him in 1985 after a brief telephone conversation with his daughter Kate on Standards of Performance; he said Iams will be a Billion dollar company someday. When I asked what the sales were, he indicated around 35 million; I then knew he was a Big Dreamer. Iams exceeded a Billion about 15 years later, and the reason to “Dream no little Dreams”. I and many other people have learned from Clay from his actions and beliefs on family, faith, people and business and are grateful to have known him.

~ Richard Liette

I thank God for Clay, Mary and the Mathile Family. Clay was an incredible man with a very loving and generous heart. He and Mary were so involved with the moms, children and staff at The Glen at St. Joseph where I worked. I trully admired and respected Clay and all that he stood for. Our Glen staff always felt welcomed at Aileron. Clay will never be forgotten for his legacy, teachings and kind heart. I will continue to keep the family in my prayers. God bless, keep and comfort you all.

~ Olivia Harris

My favorite memory of Clay is him describing how Iams invested in the education of their staff, even when that education didn't directly benefit Iams, but did benefit the individual. When asked why, he spoke of the importance of helping the person, which is clearly a direct reflection of Clay's heart. Separately, while this isn't a "memory" of Clay, what I think of most is the enormous impact he's had on business owners.... helping them through implementing professional management, establishing boards, developing strategic plans, etc.. While I'm certain the economic impact of his work has been enormous, I'm even more certain the individual/family impact has been even bigger.

~ Bryan Hogan

Clay Mathile was one of the most genuine people that I have had the honor to meet. Clay, and his family, impacted the lives of my family and me tremendously (miraculously) during a very trying, stressful, and uncertain time in our business lives. I learned tremendously from Clay during the two years that we interacted with each other. My wife, children, and I often reflect on Clay’s involvement in our lives fondly, and it is something that we will never forget, and will never take for granted. We pray for God’s perfect will and blessings on the entire Mathile family. This life is but a vapor, but because of the perfect living sacrifice of Jesus Christ, who is our Lord and Savior, we look forward to eternal life with him forever and ever.

~ Veit Von Parker

Clay Mathile was one of the most genuine people that i have had the honor to meet. Clay, and his family, impacted the lives of my family and me tremendously (miraculously) during a very trying, stressful, and uncertain time in our business lives. I learned tremendously from clay during the two years that we interacted with each other. My wife, children, and i often reflect on clay's involvement in our lives fondly, and it is something that we will never forget, and will never take for granted. 

~ Veit Von Parker

Me, a young man finishing trade school, ready to work, wanting to show off my new skills and talent, I had no idea what the world had in store for me. Only because of the bragging and encouragement of many Iams employees, did I find my way to the doorstep of the Iams company. After a decade of countless hours, with great coworkers, demanding training, and self-confidence building, I was off to entrepreneurship. A young man has no concept of the knowledge swallowed over a decade of working under great leadership, leading this young man to a path of 27 years of self-employment, a strong successful business, wonderful employees, and a phenomenal family. Thanks for great leadership during an impressionable time in my life.

~ John Bordenkircher

Clay never traveled to Guatemala with Mary but he was always aware of Mary and her travels there and made every provision for her safety in a land so affected with problems and danger. All of our Sisters have held Mary and the family in our prayers these days, knowing that such a loss leaves an ache that never quite goes away. From a distance, we are grateful to Clay for his vision and passion and generosity. And we are grateful to the family for the ways in which you have embraced his vision and carried it forward. May you know many blessings for the ways in which you are a blessing for others.

~ Sister Kris Schrader

Mr. Mathile did so much for the community. Thanks to the support of the Mathile Family Foundation, we've been able to reach every preschool student at the Marilyn E. Thomas Center in Trotwood with seasonal Nature Storytime programs each year, sharing an encounter with our wildlife ambassadors as well as reading a book, a copy of which is left in every classroom!

~ Deb Oexmann

Sending our deepest sympathy and condolences for your loss. Clay’s belief in visionary leadership, commitment to the community, and the impact he has had on countless lives will never be forgotten.

~ Jennifer Howard, Teach For America Ohio

The first time I met Clay Mathile was at a Newt Gingrich political rally. Clay came over to me and introduced himself. Though we only chatted for a few minutes I personally remember him as being a very nice gentleman and I was honored that he took the time to come over and say hi to me. Though that was the only time I personally met Clay Mathile, I still feel that I know Clay through all the GREAT things he has done for the Dayton Community. Making IAMS a major player in the pet food industry, sharing his business expertise in setting up the Aileron Business School, and something that is near and dear to my heart, he, and his wife (Mary) setting up the Mathile Family Foundation. I want to personally thank the fine folks at the Mathile Family Foundation for offering me guidance in helping me establish the Charles D. Berry Foundation. I feel Clay and Mary’s influence while still working with the fine people at the Mathile Family Foundation to this day. I also enjoyed reading Clay’s book “Dream No Little Dreams.” This book was so well written that it almost made feel like I was living Clay Mathile adventures life. My condolences goes out to Clay Mathile’s family and to personally thank Clay for the great things that you did for the Dayton Community and are now doing for GOD and his son Jesus up in Heaven!

~ Charles D. Berry

For me, offering condolences in this case, seems like such an understatement. I struggle with the words to express my feelings. Like so many others, I was a recipient of his inspiration on many occasions. One of the great joys of my life was and is the thirty two years I have spent in service to St Mary Development Corporation. I joined the Board at his urging and never once in all those years did he miss an opportunity to be updated on the progress of the organization and to express his appreciation for the fulfillment of it's mission. A true friend indeed.

~ Richard Blessing

I'm Kathy Fisher, Peg Mathile's Sister. When I first met Clay, I was in my late 20's and wanted to start a Real Estate business where I owned the properties and either leased them to others or renovated and sold the properties. I had no idea where to start. All I knew is that every time there was a family gathering, I was learning from Clay. I was amazed at how differently he thought about the world, business and life. I just wanted to learn more.

When Clay published his book, Dream No Little Dreams, I had already started gearing up my Real Estate business. I had mentors, but no one who thought about business the way Clay thought about it. While reading this book, for the first time, I realized that 'stuff happens' to everyone who has a business and I just have to move through and get to the other side of the issues that appear. Before reading this book, I thought it was a competence issue with me rather than 'this stuff happens in all businesses'. This book was a game changer not only in my business, but in my life.
Aileron has also been a true gift in my life. I learned so much from this education center and definitely think differently about my business.

I can't say enough about how Clay influenced the quality of my life. I believe the world is a better place because Clay was here. I want to thank Tim for sharing his Dad with our family. We are so fortunate.

A big THANK YOU to Clay!

~ Kathy Fisher

In the short time I knew Mr. Mathile he always treated everyone with dignity and respect. Without knowing it, he inspired so many around him without trying. My condolences to The Mathile Family.

~ Dareld Osborne

My first memory of Mr. Mathile takes me back 50 years. It was shortly after he moved his family from our hometown of Napoleon, OH to Dayton. My parents shared that Clay and MaryAnn were my godparents, which wasn't something a 5 or 6 year old understood. But they opened their home and welcomed us in, and they had kids for me to play with in the basement! Shortly thereafter we moved 2,000 miles away. That distance and my parents need for a fresh start resulted in over three decades passing before I'd see them again. My father had passed away when I was a young adult and now, over a decade later, I was married with three young boys of my own. I longed to know more about who my dad was when he was my age - when he was starting his family. Clay and MaryAnn again opened their home to me and shared their memories. I had the opportunity to speak privately with Clay for sometime that afternoon. We talked about my young family, my mom, his family (of which he was so proud), my grandmother (who he adored), and finally my dad. I didn't know Clay as a business leader or philanthropist, but that day I knew him as the proud father and friend to my dad that he was. I suspect my experience was not unique, which speaks even louder to the man he was. His legacy lives on in every life he touched, including mine. My deepest and most sincere condolences to his family.

~ Casey Denny

I have had the opportunity to meet Clay on a few occasions. He, his company, Aileron and family members have been recipients of the Torch Award of the BBB. In fact Aileron was the first recipient of the Torch Award and the award was to recognize the efforts of people like John Patterson, the Wright Brothers and Clay Mathile. These men helped Dayton reinvent itself through good and bad economic times. But the first thing that comes to mind was at a community forum where everyone shared their name and what their current profession was. This was just after Clay sold Iams. When he stood up and introduced himself he said "I'm Clay Mathile and I am currently unemployed". Everyone had a good laugh at that. Clay leaves an incredible legacy that will forever impact the Dayton area and world.

~ John North

I have had the privilege of knowing and talking with Clay for the past 10 years. I always appreciated his kind presence and eagerness to think through any challenge. In the middle of it all I consistently experienced support and I always learned something new! Rest well, Clay

~ Kent Rhodes

Contribute to Clay’s Legacy

Friends and family are encouraged to share memories, stories, or condolences. Those seeking other ways to contribute can support Clay’s philanthropic legacies, Aileron or The Mathile Institute, at the link below.

Contribute to Clay’s Legacy