By Diana Popa, class of 2011, English and Spanish major
Grammar and Usage was the first class I took that counted towards my English major, and I had the privilege of having Dr. Stratton as my instructor. In truth, my first impression of him was a little bit cryptic. He spent the whole class period talking in analogies, many of which involved blue and red Chinese vases. I took copious notes, furiously scribbling down all manner of Chinese vase-related things, trying to decode some kind of message. I’m relieved to report that I eventually decoded most of what he was saying in that first class period—at least I think so.
Indeed, Dr. Stratton taught me many things both inside and outside of the classroom. He taught me how to properly diagram a sentence. He gave me my first book on literary theory. He told me it was to address the “theory mongers” I would face in graduate school. Beyond that, he even included an essay inside the text on his perceptions of my writing style. I distinctly remember feeling confused. I recall saying something along the lines of, “But Dr. Stratton, I thought I was supposed to write the essays?” And he merely replied, “Oh, is that so?” He could be quietly subversive in that way.
Upon taking his Modern Poetry class, I sat there wondering if he would remember me from his previous class two years prior. He called off all the names on the roster in standard form, but when he got to my name he stopped and gasped, exclaiming, “Popa, I nearly fell out of my chair with excitement when I realized you’d be in my class!” I was caught off guard, but couldn’t help smiling. That was Dr. Stratton: alternately joyful, then serious.
On one memorable occasion, I sought out his advice on an advising-related issue that neither my adviser nor I could solve. I walked into his office, a completely distraught mess. In contrast, he was calm, entirely calm. He helped me sort through a problem that if left unsolved would have meant graduating with one degree instead of two. Instead of solving the problem for me, he raised critical questions that pointed me in the right direction. Without him, I honestly do not know if I would have graduated with two degrees in May of 2011.
Though Dr. Stratton was never my official academic adviser, he was perhaps my most sought-out adviser. There was something about his calm, and at times, enigmatic demeanor that drew me to him. His office of books on the verge of tottering from their shelves was as surprisingly comforting as he was.
Ultimately, Dr. Stratton was the kind of man who saw things in people that they perhaps did not always see in themselves. He was also a big part of why Ashland University’s English department felt like home to me. One thing I know is certain; I will always remember him and his blue, and his red, and perhaps even yellow, Chinese vases.