Walking through Marie Selby Botanical Gardens, the interview location of Dr. Laurey Stryker’s choice, the Selby board member (as well as founder of Stryker Consulting and former CEO of USF Sarasota-Manatee, among other things) discusses her lifelong passion for education and her enthusiasm for hiking.
My entire life has really been about education. I’ve been a professional educator for 40 years.
I graduated with my master’s in political science. I was hired as a charter faculty for Hillsborough Community College when I was 22 years old. My husband was totally shocked that they hired me fresh out of college.
I taught political science — it was the 1960s, so it was a very big topic at the time because of civil rights and the politics around the Vietnam War. A lot of students were interested in politics then. After that, I went on the public side and became the officer of the state for the next 20 years of my life. I went from teaching it, to doing it. Getting women elected early on was my main interest. I was active in politics to get more women appointed and elected.
Another thing I got involved in early on was girl sports — when FSU was first trying to develop girl sports in the 1970s, I began advocating funding. It was a real passion of mine. There were lots of women donors — FSU was founded as a women’s school, so that was a great way to tap in to women donors. It was tremendous.
Then again in the 1980s, I began advocating for fast pitch softball in Florida. At that time the State Athletic Association was not supporting fast pitch softball for girls. Our kids were losing out on scholarships because of this, so I began to support it — eventually a bill passed to allow it. As it turns out, both of my granddaughters are very strong soft pitch softball players. To watch them benefit from something that happened so long ago, it’s wonderful.
I stick with my passions for a long time, but really it comes back to the educational opportunities — the scholarships and lifelong benefits that come along with those causes. What I see with women who have experience and involvement with sports, they have a certain confidence and an appreciation and understanding for teamwork.
I’ve always looked for connections. I’m a person who thinks ahead about what I’m interested in, and also the serendipity — whatever comes along that is a match for my passion, which is really for kids and young people and innovation and education.
My passion with Selby is really about education — educating the next generation about the earth’s stewards. When I retired — well, I really didn’t retire — so, when I left USF in 2007, this was the only board I joined. The dedication to education and the goal of building the rainforest was one I wanted to be involved in. Creating places is as important as people and programs, it’s something I enjoy doing. Building that campus was that for me, and The Children’s Rainforest Garden is another place that I’ve had the privilege to be a part of.
I am an avid hiker. I’m in a hiking group, we call ourselves The Ya Ya’s; it’s a group of about 10 to 12 of women, depending on the year. We started hiking around 13 years ago — we hike one year in the states and one year outside the country. This is an in the states year. We are going to the Utah area, which will be great.
It’s really not something I would ever do by myself and my husband’s not a hiker. “Where are we going?” is what he’d be saying the entire time. To me, it’s not the destination it’s the journey.
It’s incredible, the places you see all over the world, along with the camaraderie you get with the people you’re with. And we always have a shopping day and a spa day — so it’s hiking, with a purpose.
My husband Charlie and I like to travel. He’s a history professor, so we love traveling and learning about different cultures and people. We try to get a more in depth experience with every place that we go by connecting with people that are into the deeper history, as opposed to traveling as a tourist.
And we both work out — I love yoga, my thing is yoga. It’s very centering. I have to do something every day, whether it’s biking, walking, yoga, or swimming — that’s my mantra.
I think the one thing that I’d say I’ve done that will have the longest shelf life, would be the [USF Sarasota-Manatee] campus. I think that when you look back and then you look at the 5,000 students now, it’s exciting to know what that means in regards to the future. It really is the long term, building that campus — it’s what I would call my legacy project.
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