Friday, September 9, 2016

Alumna Reflects on John Stratton's Generosity and Grace

By Christina Adkins, class of 2008, Integrated Language Arts major

The news of Dr. Stratton saddened me deeply. He was my academic advisor during my undergrad years at Ashland during 2004 through 2008. He was always patient with me even when he was offering stern advice. Because of his persistence in pushing me to finish what I started, I can honestly say that I wouldn't have graduated had it not been for him. You see, I nearly failed out during my junior year of college. I got so caught up in the social aspects of college life, was working full time waitressing, and wanted so badly to make friends that I let my studies fall to the wayside. I can recall countless times I'd sit in his office for advice, encouragement, or just to have someone to talk to. Every time I would come in, he'd turn from whatever he was doing and give me his full attention. He could have easily failed me. He could have easily turned away, but instead he gave me the grace and hope I needed to complete my education. He set a plan in place to get me back on track, and didn't talk down to me regardless of the crazy issues I'd come to him with.

There is one particular occasion that really sticks out to me about him. As a broke college student, I would always sell back my textbooks after each term. One set of books, the Norton Anthology, was a set of 4 that retailed for over $300 at the time. I sold them back after my junior year once I had completed the classes I had needed them for in order to buy books for the next class. I found out closer towards graduation that I needed those particular books to study for my Praxis Content Area exam that would later lead to my teaching certification. I came to him venting, crying mostly about how I felt stupid for selling back those particular books because I couldn't afford to buy them again to study with. He stopped me and reassured everything would be alright. He then got up and pulled all 4 of those books I had needed off his bookshelf and handed them to me. He told me it was my early graduation present. That wasn’t his first instance of grace towards me. On another occasion, when I had come in just to have someone to talk to, he shared with me a short short story he had written about his rose garden. It was a symbol of hope and beauty during times of chaos, which was quite the metaphor in relation to my life during that time.

Out of all the professors I’ve had throughout the years, I can honestly say my favorite would have to be Dr. Stratton. He believed in me before I was fully able to believe in myself. When I wanted so badly to give up and just quit, he encouraged me to keep fighting and not give up hope. To never ever give up hope because without it we are nothing. I contribute not only my graduation from Ashland to his sincere efforts as my college advisor, but also the gift of compassion. He taught me to give beyond the job expectation, to give the gift of knowledge freely, and to focus on the good even during times of chaos.

After college, I moved down south. I taught high school English for over five years, earned my Master’s Degree, and am now enrolled in the PhD program for Education. I would have never considered continuing my education if it weren’t for Dr. Stratton pushing me during my undergrad years. Unfortunately, I never got the chance to go back and thank Dr. Stratton for his all of his sincere efforts and patience in having me as an advisee. I was probably annoying to him, and I’m sure I drove him nuts with my constant visits, but he always responded with grace and patience. He changed my life and I regret never taking the time to thank him for that.