Turning 50 Made Matthew McConaughey Think About His Legacy: 'What Will They Say at Your Eulogy?'

The Oscar winner spoke with PEOPLE ahead of the History channel's HISTORYTalks, Leadership & Legacy event

Matthew McConaughey faced death in many ways through his movie career.

He played an HIV-positive electrician in Dallas Buyers Club, traveled to space on a risky mission to save mankind in Interstellar and jumped in front of a runway dumpster to save Jennifer Lopez’s character in The Wedding Planner. Now as the Oscar winner enters the next phase of his life — he turned 50 in November — he’s been thinking about what he’ll leave behind when the time comes for real.

“It’s really fun and interesting for me to go, ‘Okay, project forward and look back at your eulogy. What will they say to your eulogy?’” McConaughey tells PEOPLE in this week’s issue. “Can I live a life where I can look forward to looking back?”

Matthew McConaughey
Matthew McConaughey. Noam Galai/Getty

Though McConaughey won’t stop acting, he continues to build his resume with gigs he’s passionate about outside of Hollywood.

The father of three teaches a film class at his alma mater, the University of Texas at Austin, runs his just keep livin foundation, owns part of the new Austin FC soccer club and works as Minister of Culture/M.O.C. in Texas’s capital city. He also serves as cre­ative director for Wild Turkey Distillery and created his own Longbranch bourbon.

Legacy, he says, “That’s something I’ve been thinking a lot about. Having children, a family, that thought process kicks in quite a bit.”

McConaughey started building that legacy with the nonprofit just keep livin organization that he started 10 years ago to empower students.

“Being in my position, I had the means to give back,” the actor recalls. “I wanted to do something that was incentive-based, to prevent before we had the cure. So we found high school students who needed what we wanted to give them, which is exercise goals, nutrition goals, accountability to community service and a halo of gratitude. We have students who were about to fail out, on drugs, and came into our curriculum, graduated, got scholarships and just graduated from a major university. That kind of stuff really feels good.”

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Since originally launching in Venice High School in California in 2010, “We’re in over 50 schools in 11 states now,” McConaughey says.

One state will always hold a special place in McConaughey’s heart: his native Texas. “It’s home,” The Gentleman star says. “It has more common sense than some places I’ve been. It’s got great hospitality. When a crisis comes, everyone quickly pulls up their bootstraps and says, ‘Well, let’s get to work.’ But Texans teach our kids, ‘Get a passport to get out of here. Go travel the world. Then come back.’”

Matthew Mcconaughey
Donald Miralle/Getty

McConaughey moved his own kids — sons Levi, 11, and Livingston, 7, and daughter Vida, 10 — and his wife, model and Yummy Spoonfuls co-owner Camila Alves, to his home state last year. In the state’s capital city, he serves as the Minster of Culture/M.O.C. for the UT Arena being built and as an owner of Austin FC.

“It’s a nondenominational, bipartisan values campaign,” McConaughey explains. “It’s defining, preserving and inspiring values of institutions, cities and universities in one location. Austin’s the pilot city I’m working on.”

For more on Matthew McConaughey, pick up this week’s issue of PEOPLE on newsstands Friday.

All of it encompasses McConaughey’s life at 50. “I didn’t turn 50 and go, ‘Now, I’ve got to think about heavy stuff.’ If anything, I was happy to go, ‘You know what? I guess a feel 50 because I’m 50,’” he says. “But subconsciously, I’m sure it had something to do with it.”

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