Dorothy C. Stratton, Purdue's first dean of women, dies at 107

Dorothy C. Stratton, 107, of West Lafayette, died at 6:48 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 17, 2006, at 2741 N. Salisbury St., West Lafayette, Ind., where she was a resident after having moved from Newtown, Conn., to share a home with the late Helen B. Schleman in 1985.

Born March 24, 1899, in Brookfield, Mo., she attended high school at Lamar, Mo., and Blue Rapids, Kan., before graduating from Ottawa University with a bachelor's degree. She received a master's degree in psychology from the University of Chicago and a doctorate in student personnel administration from Columbia University. She also studied at Northwestern University, the University of Washington, and the Berkeley and Los Angeles branches of the University of California.

Dr. Stratton became the first full-time dean of women at Purdue University in 1933, and in 1942, she was commissioned a senior lieutenant in the U.S. Navy. Later in 1942, she was transferred to the U.S. Coast Guard where she became the creator and first director of the Women's Reserve of the U.S. Coast Guard in World War II. Upon being named director, she was promoted to lieutenant commander and was promoted to commander in January 1944 and to captain one month later. She was awarded the Legion of Merit medal for her contributions to women in the military upon retirement in 1946.

The nautical title of SPAR, as the Women's Reserve was commonly known, was originated by Stratton. She coined the acronym from the first letters of the Coast Guard's famous fighting motto, "Semper Paratus" and its English translation, "Always Ready."

She is the last survivor of the original women's service directors who volunteered in World War II.

"Dorothy Stratton was one of the truly great people in the history of Purdue University, higher education and indeed our nation," said Purdue President Martin C. Jischke. "She served as Dean of Women and a professor at Purdue beginning in 1933. She was the founding director of the United States Coast Guard Women's Reserve during World War II. From 1947 to 1950 she was director of personnel at the International Monetary Fund. She next served 10 years as national director of the Girl Scouts of America. In each of these positions Dr. Stratton was a trailblazer in helping to create opportunities for women. All of us are indebted to Dr. Stratton for her courageous leadership and vision. Her 107-year lifespan touched three centuries and she was blessed to live to see many of the changes she advanced come into reality. She counted great people in history such Amelia Earhart and Lillian Gilbreath among her friends. We were indeed fortunate to count her among ours."

During her tenure at Purdue, Dr. Stratton saw the enrollment of women students increase from 500 to more than 1,400, and three modern residence halls for women constructed. A liberal science program for women in the School of Science was inaugurated and an employment placement center for Purdue women was instituted. She was instrumental in establishing the Housemother's Training School that gave intensive training to several hundred fraternity and sorority housemothers from all parts of the country.

Following her stint as SPAR director, Dr. Stratton became the first director of personnel at the International Monetary Fund, followed by service as executive director of the Girl Scouts of the U.S.A. She was the United Nations representative of the International Federation of University Women and chairman of the women's committee within the President's Commission on Employment of the Handicapped.

She received honorary degrees from her alma mater, Ottawa University, Russell Sage College, Smith College, Bates College and Purdue. The University of Chicago Alumni Association presented her with its Public Service Award.

Dr. Stratton was a member of numerous organizations: John Purdue Club, President's Council, Virginia Gildersleeve International Fund, National Association of Deans of Women, American Association of University Women, Business and Professional Women's Club, National Education Association, American Association for the Advancement of Science, and associate member of the American Psychological Association, to name a few.

Friends may greet the family one hour prior to the 3 p.m. memorial service on Sunday, Oct. 1, at Hippensteel Funeral Home with the Reverend Gary Reif officiating. A private family burial will be at Grandview Cemetery. In lieu of flowers, the family would appreciate memorials be made to donor's favorite charity in her memory or to the Dorothy C. Stratton NROTC Scholarship Fund, in care of Purdue University Foundation, Schleman Hall, Room 204, 4755 Stadium Mall Drive, West Lafayette, IN 47907.

Dr. Stratton was preceded in death by her parents: the Reverend Richard L. Stratton and Anna Troxler Stratton; and a brother, Dr. Richard C. Stratton, who served in the U.S. Army Medical Corps Reserves during World War II.

Surviving are a niece, Barbara Stratton Myers (husband, Morgan) of Sunnyvale, Calif.; a nephew, Dr. Richard Lee Stratton of Reno, Nev.; two grand nieces, Melinda Myers Cook (husband: Kelly) of Los Altos, Calif., and Megan Myers Blair (husband: James) of Wilton, Calif.; and great-grand nieces and nephews Kaitlin and Kendall Cook and Austin and Emma Blair. Her West Lafayette family include Dr. Barbara I. Cook, Betty M. Nelson, Dr. Richard C. Nelson and Capt. Sally Watlington, USN (Ret.).