In Memoriam

Morton B. Stratton

In Memoriam - Morton B. Stratton

Mort and his wife Margaret “Biz” Stratton considered their home for these last forty years together, Salt Spring Island, the most beautiful destination on earth.

Set between Vancouver, British Columbia, and Vancouver Island, the mix of bay views and mountain vistas drew them there in 1970 to build a home, and on his retirement from Denison after 33 years as a history professor, they moved there in 1976 and never regretted the decision.

But his taste for a rural life with beautiful views began in the Granville area with what he called “a gentleman farm,” where Mort and Biz raised their three children. A working farm, but one that took second place to lectures on European history–yet even geopolitical considerations couldn’t entirely overturn the need to get the cows milked and the chickens fed.

In fact, Stratton’s taste for the simple life went back to his Quaker roots and his birthplace in Moylan, Pa., where his family belonged to the Middletown Friends Meeting. With his background in a Quaker boarding school, it’s no surprise that he entered World War II as a conscientious objector. For the rest of his life, he told the story of the unfortunate surprise he gave to the recipient of the first shot he delivered as a medic in the Philippines–he somehow managed to bend the needle in the soldier’s derriere.

Apparently he got better as a medic, or perhaps it was just the end of the war. At any rate, Stratton returned to Denison, taught his classes, kept up his farm, and continued his explorations of the world he’d begun to see at Earlham and Tufts, through his Ph.D. work at the University of Pennsylvania, and though somewhat unwillingly, thanks to the Army.

So his first sabbatical took him around the world in the opposite direction, to the University of Montpellier in France, where he took his whole family and their Hudson automobile for all of 1950. During his second sabbatical, he stayed a bit closer to home, going to Harvard, but with a Ford Foundation grant to research the feasibility of introducing Asian studies into liberal arts colleges like Denison.

Each broad circle of interest swept out to encompass much of the world, and drew both his family and students along with him, always returning to a quiet, stable center point. When they moved to Salt Spring Island, that center point moved, but the arc of interest still ranged widely, always returning to home, and his wife of 74 years.

Stratton is survived by Biz, daughters Peggy Bent and Nancy VanWormer, and son John, as well as his sister Alice, seven grandchildren, and seven great-grandchildren.

Published November 2010