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Forever a Student: Gerry W. Stratford ’57 Reflects on a Life of Learning that Began at Stevenson

Gerald W. Stratford ’57 graduated from Stevenson over half a century ago. Yet, the curiosity and love of learning piqued in him by his experiences at the School remain strong—and continue to inspire his passions and pursuits.

After finishing RLS in 1957, Gerry attended the University of Virginia for two years before enlisting in the U.S. Army. He served for four years in the Army Medical Corps, Military Justice Department, and Border Operations in Europe. After being discharged, he continued his service to the country by teaching first aid for the American Red Cross and serving in the National Ski Patrol. In the mid-1970s, Gerry founded Stratford Design Associates, an award-winning design company that was instrumental in ushering in computerized typesetting and web-based communication across the US. He retired in 2000, leaving the company in the hands of his son.  

Gerry notes that while his educational experience at Stevenson ended over 64 years ago, his excitement for learning has stayed with him—and even strengthened—over time. He explains, “My memories of Bob Ricklefs, Sybil Fearnley, Fred Hobbs, Church Chapel, and so many others at RLS are still vivid. They introduced me to poets, novelists and philosophers, scientists and artists that I still revisit and learn from now.” Gerry explains that while he has not been officially enrolled full-time at any school in many years, he has taken classes at the University of California, the San Francisco Art Institute and the Teaching Company, and he has also spent the last three decades writing about two of his greatest interests: golf and design. 

Gerry says that his own unique learning style was encouraged and nurtured by his RLS teachers, which helped him realize that he didn’t need to be enrolled in a school to consider himself a student. Gerry explains “The incredible impression of my time at Stevenson, as well as my teachers, when compared with subsequent professors and programs, eventually inspired my abandoning the classroom and embarking on an auto-didact approach, which continues to this day.” He credits two specific teachers for inspiring him to pursue his own very singular path—Sybil Fearnley, who was a mentor that sparked his “thirst for knowledge” and “love for literature,” and Fred Hobbs—who showed him that “that visual communication through art and design could be a career.” 

While it’s been many years since Gerry was a student on Stevenson’s campus, the School has remained an important part of his life—both because it is an essential part of his past that shapes how he lives and learns, and also because it gives him an opportunity to influence the future. By way of generous financial contributions to the Fearnley Library Fund and the Ricklefs Library, Gerry has had an opportunity to foster a thirst for knowledge in young Pirates and future RLS alums—to help more young scholars embrace their own unique interests and approaches to learning, with the hopes that they’ll remain curious, eager, and impassioned learners as they navigate their lives post-Stevenson—just as he has done.