Jim Strawn ’83
For some Wesleyan alums, the years spent in Buckhannon conclude with the conferring of a diploma. For Jim Strawn ’83, a man who loves to see people happy, the years spent at West Virginia Wesleyan were merely a jumping board for the decades to come.
Strawn, who currently serves as the President of Jim Strawn & Company, a marketing company that specializes in helping civic organization, non-profits, municipalities, associations, and business of all sizes engage their customers and follows through results-driven marketing strategies, was formerly the Director of Marketing at Highland Hospital in Charleston, WV and sits on the boards of thirteen organizations and volunteers for numerous more. With eleven awards under his belt, it is safe to say that Strawn loves lending a helping hand.
In fact, it was during his days at Wesleyan that this particular phrase really struck a chord with him.
“I was a member of Theta Chi Fraternity,” Strawn said. “The motto of Theta Chi is ‘to always lend a helping hand.’ I took that to heart. I get so much joy in my heart to help others.”
It was because of Theta Chi that Strawn met his former roommate and pledge brother John Skolka ’83. Skolka had been paralyzed from the neck down by a swimming accident in the summer of 1980, and the brothers of Theta Chi joined together to lend a hand to Skolka’s situation, and it was then he was hooked.
“We decided to have a fundraiser for him,” stated Strawn. “We played a basketball game for a solid week, from Saturday to Saturday, for 168 hours. To earn the fundraising dollars, brothers secured pledges per each hour they played. I played about 70 hours, and we raised about $10,000, a substantial amount back then, especially for a bunch of knuckleheaded young men like us!”
After receiving his bachelor of science in physical education, Strawn became the Public Relations Director at Shawnee Hills Mental Health Mental Retardation Center, where he worked for over 11 years. From there, he was a Sales Account Representative for WCHS TV 8 before working at Highland Hospital and served as an adjunct instructor in the University of Charleston Graduate School of Business before embarking on his current journey. Throughout all that, however, Strawn’s love for service shone through.
Strawn has been awarded numerous awards for his service acts including Volunteer of the Year for the Mental Health Association in 1999 to Social Responsibility Award from YMCA in 2015.
His list of generous volunteer work is endless. In addition to serving various health care groups, he works on the board of the local March of Dimes, Charleston’s Live on the Levee, and the Charleston Ballet, reads to kids at local schools, and volunteers at the Greenbrier Classic as a Standard Bearer. His favorite organizations to serve, however, were the Salvation Army and the Mental Health Association.
“I served as the Chairman of the Salvation Army for five years,” he said. “I love the Salvation Army because 91% of their funds raised goes directly to people in need, folks just like you and me.
“The work we did while I was president of the Mental Health Association holds a special place in my heart, too,” Strawn continued. “I think there is a lot of pain, despair, disconnectedness, and heartache in peoples’ lives today, and I always want to do everything in the sphere of my influence to assist them in getting back on the road to mental wellness.”
One of his most cherished memories is receiving the Jefferson Award. The award began in 1972 by Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis and has been called the Nobel Prize of Volunteering.
Strawn’s latest endeavor is a “No Butts About It” campaign that he began in the summer of 2015. It is a grass-roots, volunteer-based group raising awareness and cleaning up cigarette stub litter in the Charleston area.
“I would love for this to grow and become so successful that it is not needed,” Strawn commented. “Litter is a pet-peeve of mine.”
Strawn credits Wesleyan for further developing his heart and passion for service.
“Wesleyan taught me that the best way to predict the future is to create it yourself,” he stated. “Make the world a better place. Show some stewardship, and leave this planet better than you found it. Through my teachings and actions, I certainly hope I am making that difference.”
“John Wesley said ‘true Christianity fulfilled all of a person’s deepest, truest desires, making the Christian a happier, more productive person,’” he continued. “At Wesleyan, I learned a lot about this philosophy, as I could be the happiest person ever, and I try to bring that same happiness to others.”
He especially enjoys bringing that philosophy and message to children. This is evident through his work as co-author of the Sad Mad Glad Book series.
“The Sad Mad Glad Book-The Anatomy of Your Attitude are books that teach and inspire children of all ages why it is important and how to have a positive attitude,” Strawn said. “Attitude sets the tone for lifetime success. I firmly believe that.”
Strawn and life-long friend Chuck Stump have co-authored four books together, with each winning national and international awards. He was awarded the Co-Author of Book of the Year by Independent Publisher in 2009.
Strawn also cites his wife, Lisa, in his successes, calling her his rock.
“If I did not have my rock, my soulmate, standing with and beside me, I would not be half the man I am today,” he said. “She really does complete me.”
All in all, Strawn just wants to see the world a better, happier place.