SMC pays its respects to Dr. Jim Stramel
Students are feeling the loss of Dr. James “Jim” Sidney Stramel, who died the morning of March 17, 2016 after a short three week battle with aggressive leukemia. He was 56 years old. Professor Stramel was born in Kansas on April 5, 1960. He often joked to his colleagues and friends about that fact because his mother’s name was Dorothy, referring to the classic film "The Wizard of Oz." Stramel was a dedicated and beloved philosophy teacher at SMC and often served as the Club Advisor for the Philosophy Club and on the SMC Academic Senate, chairing the Professional Ethics Committee for a few years. He was also a billiards player who regularly attended competitive tournaments.
Stramel studied at the University of Kansas and then obtained his PhD in Philosophy from the University of Southern California, with his specialization being in the field of Ethics. Stramel was gay and this informed his dissertation "Gay Virtue: The Ethics of Disclosure" which about gay marriage and the importance of being “out." He was a proponent of Virtue Ethics, a branch of philosophy which first originated with Aristotle but has continued into the modern day.
“He walked the talk of virtue in all that he did,” said Dr. Amber Katherine, a colleague of Stramel and a fellow philosophy professor. “He was an atheist, but he argued tirelessly that ethics does not require religion. He believed that humans have the capacities necessary to live well together, especially use of critical thinking and care for others. He taught these things with skill, good humor, and great success. He didn’t just teach them as subjects to be tested, he taught by example, striving to live by the highest ethical ideals.”
Dr. Amber Katherine taught along side Jim in a class on the philosophy behind the television show "Star Trek", which garnered the attention of the Los Angeles times which wrote an article about the class in 2002. Stramel also made many different appearances in this paper over its years of publication, including being the central subject of a 1996 article entitled "Professor Out on His Own Terms," about how found SMC to be very accepting of his being an "out" Professor on campus at a time when this was far less common.
Students showed their love on the SMC Facebook group after Katherine broke the news with a photo and caption remembering Stramel. “Dr. Stramel was the first professor I had, I wasn't sure if I'd stick with school but his class was so inspiring and challenging that he made me want to keep going. He was a great teacher, I'll really miss him,” said Tyler Young, a former student of Stramel's.
Prof. Stramel is survived by his mother Dorothy Miller, and his siblings Richard, Jeffery, Janet and Phyllis. Currently, there is no memorial or celebration of life planned.
From their many kind words about him, it seems the students of SMC will forever remember the dedicated professor who worked tirelessly and selflessly to teach them the value of ethics and virtue. He has left lasting impacts on his students who will all dearly miss Professor Jim Stramel.