I’m Jennifer Bray Stratton, Class of 1989. My husband, Mark, and I live with our two teenage sons in Austin, Texas. I entered Washington and Lee in 1985, in the first coed class, from an all girls Catholic school in Houston, Texas.
After graduation, I worked in high tech PR in San Francisco and then went into the brokerage business when I returned to Houston a few years later. I began to volunteer just about full time when Mark and I moved to Austin in 1997. I speak Spanish fluently and have volunteered in Guatemala and El Salvador, as well as in the United States.
After staying home with our boys when they were young, I began to work in the front office of their elementary school in 2013. I also work as a family photographer and continue to volunteer.
The voice I can bring to the board
I think the voice that I would bring to the Board is one of fostering and furthering community, while asking hard questions and keeping a light focused on the areas in which we can do better. I am skilled at building bridges and mending fences, if you will. I am compassionate and inclusive, but am also a fiscal realist, having spent several years working in the financial world.
I am a good listener and am able to be empathetic, even when there is disagreement. I am no stranger to conflict in my Washington and Lee experience, first as a member of the Class of 1989 and later, out in the world as an early female alumna and certainly as the first female President of the W&L Alumni Board. I have worked previously with many of the current Trustees and perceive that there is a mutual respect and a common goal of health and growth for the University with many of these colleagues.
My service to the University community
While at W&L, I volunteered as a Campus Tour guide for prospective students, and I worked as a dorm counselor from 1986–1988, serving as a co-head dorm counselor in 1988–1989. I was also a member of ODK.
Upon graduation, I helped with chapter events and leadership from 1991–1997 when I lived in Houston. I have served on the Central Texas Alumni Chapter Board from 1998 to the present. I served on the Alumni Board as a member from 1997–1999, as vice president from 1999–2000, and as the Association’s first female President from 2000–2001.
Other community service
While I was still a student at W&L, I spent a summer living and working in an orphanage in Guatemala. After graduation, I volunteered with the Guatemalan Refugee Network in Houston.
I also volunteered with the Junior League of Houston and was their Volunteer of the Year in 1997. In Austin, I have served as an active Member of the Junior League of Austin for many years, serving as the Treasurer of its largest (million dollar plus) fundraiser. I have also served on the JLA Board for several years. Finally, I have volunteered with Austin Smiles, Good Shepherd Episcopal School, Lifeworks, St. Andrew’s Episcopal School, and SafePlace.
Relevant personal and professional experience
I have spent six years in the financial world, ten years in education, and have been volunteering for 40 plus years. My earliest work after graduation was in marketing and PR. It seems to me that each of my employment fields touches on areas of need and Board focus at W&L
By far, I am most proud of my work raising our two sons. Washington and Lee is in the business of attracting, retaining, educating, and launching young people out into the world. My paid work at an elementary school, with my own two children— who are truly the work of my life, coupled with my lifelong voluntarism across multiple educational settings, provide me with a unique educator’s perspective. My work as a dorm counselor and my continued work with local high school students continues to inform my perspective about issues that face W&L’s students today.
Other interesting facts
Washington and Lee is currently dealing with some very difficult issues and is suffering from a deep rift in alumni opinion, in increasingly uncivil times. We have a responsibility to continue to be informed by our heritage and also to continue to help the University grow and move forward.
If we do this correctly, my hope is that we don’t lose anybody along the way. My style is inclusive and compassionate, but no-nonsense and certainly willing to handle hot coals when necessary. A good friend and Virginia native, a W&L law alum, once described my business style as “southern-tinged, charming forthrightness” which I always felt was pretty high praise, especially for a Texan.