Purdue president donates papers during Stratton portrait unveiling

March 2, 2012

From left, Sally Watlington, retired U.S. Navy captain; Betty Nelson, dean of students emerita; and Purdue President France A. Córdova unveil a portrait of Dorothy Stratton on Thursday (March 1) during an event at the Virginia Kelly Karnes Archives and Special Collections Research Center. (Purdue University photo/Mark Simons)

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WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. - Purdue Libraries on Thursday (March 1) celebrated Women's History Month by honoring a piece of the university's past and a slice of its present.

A portrait of Dorothy Stratton, Purdue's first full-time dean of women who went on to become the first female commissioned officer in the U.S. Coast Guard, was unveiled. At the same time, the university's first female president and NASA's first female chief scientist, France A. Córdova, donated a selection of papers from her time as the university's leader. The event was in the Virginia Kelly Karnes Archives and Special Collections Research Center in Stewart Center.

"Purdue Libraries is honored to work with Dr. Córdova on her collection," Libraries Dean James L. Mullins said. "It is gratifying to celebrate the lives of women in Purdue history from Dorothy Stratton, who was named our first full-time dean of women and was founder and first director of the Coast Guard's Women's Reserve, up to the acquisition of the papers of France Córdova, an internationally renowned astrophysicist and Purdue's first woman president."

Purdue President France A. Córdova shows some of the personal memorabilia she is donating to the university's Division of Archives and Special Collections. (Purdue University photo/Mark Simons)

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The portrait unveiling came amid a Purdue Archives and Special Collections exhibit in Stratton's honor that opened in early January in the Karnes research center on the fourth floor of the Humanities, Social Sciences and Education Library in Stewart Center. The exhibit ends March 30.

The late Stratton in 1933 became dean of women, overseeing the construction of three campus women's residence halls and helping establish the Housemother Training School that gave intensive training to fraternity and sorority housemothers from across the United States. A scholarship named in her honor supports women's participation in Purdue's Naval ROTC program.

With the Women's Reserve of the Coast Guard, she is credited with the acronym SPARS, which the Women's Reserve was called. In July 2010, first lady Michelle Obama christened the Coast Guard Cutter Dorothy C. Stratton to honor her accomplishments.

Stratton also served as the first director of personnel at the International Monetary Fund, was executive director of the Girl Scouts of the USA and was the United Nations' representative of the International Federation of University Women.

"Today is the first day of Women's History Month, a fitting time to celebrate the life and work of Dorothy Stratton, who paved the way for so many," Córdova said. "Preserving the history of women's contributions to Purdue and to the world provides living documentation for future generations."

Córdova has her own place in Purdue history. In July 2007 she became the university's 11th president. She donated papers relating to the New Synergies strategic plan, decadal funding plan and a list, given to her by students, of "Top 20 Things to do at Purdue" to Libraries' Archives and Special Collections.

In also helping to recognize Stratton, Córdova paid tribute to the many women who have written their own success stories.

 "The women who have made up the historical fabric of Purdue - women like Dorothy Stratton - have broken barriers sometimes by the simple act of being the first to achieve something," Córdova said. "I have found dedicated, visionary and tenacious women at Purdue who can see the future and know how to make things happen; women who see a problem and fix it; women who break silent barriers every day without saying a word."

Sammie Morris, head of the Division of Archives and Special Collections, accepted Córdova's papers.

"I am so honored to receive these papers and to add them to our women's archives," Morris said. "In what have been historically male-dominated professions, Purdue women have succeeded. These papers will serve more than research purposes. They will be an inspiration for future Boilermakers who will create their own legacies."

Writer: Jim Bush, 765-494-2077, jsbush@purdue.edu

Sources: James L. Mullins, 765-494-2900, jmullins@purdue.edu
 Sammie Morris, 765-494-2905, morris18@purdue.edu
 France A. Córdova, president@purdue.edu

Related news release
Purdue Libraries archives exhibit to feature Purdue, U.S. Coast Guard pioneer Dorothy Stratton: http://www.purdue.edu/newsroom/events/2012/story-print-deploy-layout_1_17270_17270.html