After much effort trying to get a MATLAB routine to compile in C I discovered the following pieces of information.
1. CentOS will not install a gcc compiler more recent than 4.1.2 with yum install. This is circa 2007. If you want a more recent compiler it must be installed manually.
2. To compile and link C programs that call the MATLAB engine, they must be compiled in MATLAB using the mex command. Every version of MATLAB after R2008b requires the gcc compiler 4.2.3.
3. Building gcc 4.2.3 takes a lot more than 1 hour of compile time. I accidentally killed the build process and gave it up as a lost cause.