KOKOMO, Ind. — During their 43-year marriage, Willie Stroman knew his wife, Gerry, had impacted hundreds of people, not only in her professional life at Indiana University Kokomo, but through community service.
Since her April 25 death, he’s had a fuller picture of the difference she made in the world — and it’s helped his family cope with their unexpected loss.
“I meet people every day who tell me, ‘I would not be where I am today if it wasn’t for Gerry Stroman,’” he said. “I’m proud of it. It has helped me immensely in my grieving process. I keep getting these positive messages about things she has done to help so many people.”
He’s pleased to see her impact live on, both in a scholarship and a diversity award given in her name.
“She would have been grateful, but she was the kind of person who did things not looking for reward or praise,” Stroman said. “She had a passion for helping people. What we are seeing now is the result of the fruits of her labor from what she’s done in the past.”
Mr. Stroman, together with daughter Amber, and grandchildren Jaylen, Amara, and Ke'Ari, established the Gerry Gunnings Stroman Scholarship in her honor with the IU Foundation, to honor her 31-year career on the IU Kokomo 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.
At Saturday’s Indiana Black Expo (IBE) statewide conference Tanya Bell, president and CEO, presented the family with a $10,000 donation to her scholarship.
Bell said Gerry was an example of someone who worked toward equality for all. As an organization that has given more than $4.6 million in scholarships over the last three decades, she felt giving to a scholarship in her name was the best fit for all.
“We are excited students can benefit from her legacy,” Bell said. “The impact she had as a servant in our community was so valuable. Gerry was so instrumental to our community with all the work she has done, not just in her roles at IU, but within her community. We knew this was the right thing to do to honor her.”
Earlier in June, James Wimbush, IU vice president for diversity, equity, and multicultural affairs, announced that his office’s most prestigious honor will now be called the Gerry Gunnings Stroman Distinguished Inclusive Excellence Award, in her honor. He noted that she was the first of only five recipients so far since he began the award in 2017.
The first recipient of the award with its new name was IU President Michael A. McRobbie, for his work to increase diversity during his tenure, as he retires June 30.
Wimbush noted that Stroman had been proud of her award, and he was touched to see it displayed at her services.
“She was the epitome of all of the wonderful attributes of someone who cared not just about her own institution, but also diversity and inclusion in the broader community,” he said, adding that when there was an event to promote diversity, equity, and inclusion, he could count on her to be there, most likely bringing her family as well.
“She was a good friend of mine,” he said.
Mr. Stroman has been both pleasantly surprised and honored by the recognitions.
“It was great to see that they are showing their love for Gerry, her contributions to the organization, and some of the things she accomplished being part of IU and the community,” he said. “She’s going to continue to help people get educated.”
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.