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Campus remembers Gerry Stroman for her leadership, advocacy

Apr 30, 2021
A woman smiles for a portrait
A woman smiles for a portrait

KOKOMO, Ind. — Friend. Mentor. Leader. Advocate.

These words are used to remember Gerry Stroman, Indiana University Kokomo’s former chief of staff, who passed away Sunday, April 25, in Kokomo. She impacted hundreds of students, faculty, and staff during her 31-year career on campus, in roles ranging from director of the University Division, assistant vice chancellor for academic affairs, affirmative action officer, and chief of staff. She retired in February 2017, and remained an active community volunteer.

Chancellor Susan Sciame-Giesecke shared the news of Stroman’s death with the campus community with a heavy heart.

 “Gerry was a wonderful colleague, who became a good friend and confidant as my chief of staff,” she said. “She was a fierce advocate for all people, but in particular people of color, making sure their voices were included, and their needs considered, when decisions were being made. She was a leader, and used her leadership positions to lift and elevate those around her. The city of Kokomo, and IU Kokomo, are better because of her, and she will be missed profoundly.”

Sciame-Giesecke awarded Stroman the Chancellor’s Medallion, the highest honor IU Kokomo’s chancellor may award, in 2017.

Sarah Sarber succeeded Stroman as chief of staff, and had worked with her for more than 27 years, until Stroman’s retirement. She became a trusted friend, in addition to being a colleague.

“She had a heart for caring for people,” Sarber said. “Gerry was someone I knew if I had a question or needed to talk through something, I could pick up the phone and call or text her, even after she retired.”

She was known for touching base or connecting with students regularly, just to check in to be sure they were doing well, and to offer help as needed — which was much appreciated, Sarber said. She was also known for her dedication to making sure all viewpoints were considered.

“Gerry was always a champion for inclusion, and making sure people had a seat at the table and a voice on issues being considered,” Sarber said. “She was a fierce fighter for students and equity. We’re all better for having the opportunity to work with her. She certainly left her mark on IU – not just our campus, but IU at large.”

Kelli Keener, director of advising, described Stroman as “a personable leader,” who created a welcoming, inclusive environment.

“People felt like they mattered,” Keener said. “We cultivated that approach in our office because of her. I don’t think Advising would be what it is without Gerry. She did tremendous work defining what advising is, why it’s important, and how to advocate for students, and be a champion in their corner.”

She noted that academic advisors used to be separate from one another, working in individual majors, until Stroman helped create the Office of Student Success and Advising, moving advisors into one unit where they could work together and learn from one another. She hired Keener during that transition in 2009, and then promoted Keener to be her successor when she became chief of staff.

“She had a strong influence on me,” Keener said. “One of the reasons I use a lot of coaching in my current leadership style is because of her teaching.”

James Wimbush, IU vice president for diversity, equity, and multicultural affairs, noted that Stroman was the inaugural recipient of his office’s Distinguished Inclusive Excellence Award in 2017.

“Stroman leaves behind a legacy of determination, excellence, and strength,” he said, including her work helping create the advising office, and promoting student success, diversity, and inclusion whenever possible. She also led the partnership between the campus and Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority Inc., Omicron Phi Omega chapter, to host Kokomo’s annual Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. celebration. She was chapter president at the time of her death.

Precious Majors, a 2012 IU Kokomo graduate, said Stroman was a connector for him — connecting him to opportunities both when he was a student, and when he began his career as an admissions counselor at Kokomo.

“She was a champion for my early success,” he said. “She connected me to people and relationships that became invaluable, to people who could serve as mentors. She was a person who found me. If there was an opportunity, no matter where I was on campus, she would find me, and there would be not only rich conversation, but opportunity. I owe all of my early professional development to her.”

Stroman  took great pride in her family, including her husband, Willie Stroman, their daughter, Amber Stroman, and her beloved grandchildren, Jaylen, Amara and Ké-Ari.

Visitation for Stroman is from 4 to 7 p.m. Friday, April 30, and 9 to 11 a.m. Saturday, May 1, with services at 11 a.m. Saturday, all at Second Missionary Baptist Church, 819 North Apperson Way, Kokomo.

Memorial contributions may be made to the Gerry Gunnings Stroman Scholarship at the IU Foundation, PO Box 6460, Indianapolis, Indiana, 46206-6460.

Education is KEY at Indiana University Kokomo.

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