IU Kokomo chief of staff retires after 31-year career
Mar. 1, 2017
For over three decades, May has been Gerry Stroman’s favorite time of year.
“When you see the students walk across the stage at commencement, that is when you see the fruits of your labor,” said Stroman, chief of staff at IU Kokomo. “When you see the students walking across the stage to graduate and you remember seeing many of them when they began as freshmen, you realize their success is what it’s all about.”
After nearly 31 years on campus, with stints as director of the University Division, assistant vice chancellor for academic affairs and affirmative action officer before gaining her current role, Stroman retired Feb. 28.
“It’s just something you know; I knew it was my time,” she said. “You look back over what you’ve done, and look at what else you can do, and know when the job is complete.”
She recently was honored for her accomplishments with the inaugural Distinguished Inclusive Excellence Award by James Wimbush, IU vice president for diversity, equity and multicultural affairs. She also received the Chancellor’s Medallion, the highest honor IU Kokomo’s chancellor may award.
The Kokomo resident is proudest of her work creating the Office for Student Success and Advising, and for promoting diversity and inclusion, along with her accomplishments as chief of staff, a position she has held since Chancellor Susan Sciame-Geisecke was appointed interim chancellor in 2012.
As she retires, Stroman hopes her colleagues remember her as someone who cared about student success, and someone who treated people fairly.
“My philosophy has always been to treat people the way I want to be treated,” she said. “It didn’t matter what role they play. I have always wanted to be fair in decisions I made and help change the campus in a positive way.”
She also hopes to inspire other women to work hard and set their ambitions high. Often, those on smaller campuses believe opportunities for advancement are limited, but she proved that is not true.
“I hope I have set an example not only for people of color but for anyone,” she said. “I hope I have set an example for women who want leadership positions. We have a lot of talented women on campus today. I hope they can look at my career path and see how it is possible to move up. You just have to work really hard, and that is what I did over my 31 years here.”
Stroman doesn’t have big plans for after retirement -- she wants to spend time with friends and family, and eventually move back to North Carolina or somewhere with a warmer climate.
Stroman aspired to work in education from the time she was a young girl growing up in North Carolina, though her original plan was to be an elementary teacher. After two years teaching in the Atlanta Public Schools, she decided teaching was not her niche; she returned to college to earn a Master of Arts in guidance and counseling, with a focus on urban counseling. After a yearlong internship in the Detroit public schools, she became director of counseling at Fayetteville State University, a historically black college and university.
“From that time, when I made the transition to higher ed, that’s when I knew where I needed to be,” she said. “That was clearly my niche, and I had a passion for it.”
She moved to Kokomo for husband Willie Stroman’s job in 1981, and worked for a jobs training partnership program until she was hired as director of the University Division at IU Kokomo.
“I just really haven’t looked back since then,” she said. “I knew this was where I wanted to be. It’s all about helping students focus on their education. I truly believe you need to get a good education in order to make it in today’s world.”