Veteran and Military Success Center Student Success Programs

About Dorothy Stratton

Purdue's first full-time Dean of Women and founder of the Coast Guard's Women's Reserve

Who was Dorothy Stratton?

Dorothy Stratton became the first full-time dean of women at Purdue in 1933 and served in that role until 1942. In her nine years at Purdue, Stratton forged a path for women wanting to study more than home economics, and she saw this effort pay off as enrollment of female students nearly tripled from 500 to more than 1,400.

In 1942, Stratton left Purdue to join the burgeoning war effort as the United States entered World War II. She was commissioned as a senior lieutenant in the U.S. Navy but later was transferred to the U.S. Coast Guard. Not long after, Stratton founded the Coast Guard’s Women’s Reserve and became its first director. She climbed in rank to lieutenant commander and then to commander in January 1944, then to captain one month later.

Stratton is who coined the nautical title SPAR, as the Women’s Reserve was commonly known. The acronym comes from the first letters of the Coast Guard’s famous fighting motto, “Semper Paratus,” and its English translation, “Always Ready.” Upon her retirement in 1946, Stratton was awarded the Legion of Merit medal for her contributions to women in the military.

Stratton died in 2006 at the age of 107.

U.S. Coast Guard Legacy

In 2009, the U.S. Coast Guard dedicated a National Security Cutter in Stratton’s name. First Lady Michelle Obama remarked that Stratton “is a source of inspiration for countless women in uniform and for young women and girls who may one day serve in our nation's armed forces.”

Purdue Legacy

In 2023, Purdue’s previously named Veterans Success Center was renamed and dedicated in Stratton’s honor, becoming the Dorothy Stratton Veteran and Military Success Center. At the dedication ceremony, President Mung Chiang said Stratton was a trailblazer in all possible ways.

"When I think of Purdue servicemembers, I think of individuals like Captain Stratton, who had such a major impact on our campus as well as within the defense of our nation,” Chiang shared. “On campus today, we serve over 2,000 students who are connected with the service and who sacrifice so much to safeguard our democracy. We also recognize that there are a number of staff and faculty who served honorably and without hesitation. I appreciate their service to our country and am honored to take this time to recognize their sacrifices and commitment to the United States.”

According to Morgan Gamble, director of the Dorothy Stratton Veteran and Military Success Center, naming the center for a strong female military leader is another example of how the center is inclusive of all military-connected students.

“When we have the chance to highlight the positive impact a woman has made, especially in the military, we ought to do so,” Gamble says. “The impact Stratton had on campus and the Coast Guard, is truly incredible. Our staff is honored to be able to recognize her legacy in this way.”

To learn more about Dorothy Stratton, please visit the Purdue Archives and Special Collections website.

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