Catherine "Kay" Stratton's 80th birthday party last Friday was filled with fun and friendship, as well as a surprise for the guest of honor.
Mrs. Stratton was feted by the MIT Women's League in the lounge named after her in the building named after her husband, former MIT president Julius Adams Stratton. In attendance were more than 100 colleagues, friends, family and members of the MIT community, some of whom took a turn at the microphone to issue words of praise.
"Your grace, good humor and love of the arts gave MIT a grace and humanity from which we all have benefited," said fellow former first lady Priscilla Gray. Adding their tributes were Mark Palmgren, director of the MIT Council for the Arts (which was established in 1971 as a result of Mrs. Stratton's work), and Dr. Michael Kane of the MIT Medical Department, another beneficiary of her time and fund-raising efforts.
Although Mrs. Stratton knew about the party in advance, what she didn't know until then was that the Women's League has established the Catherine Stratton Lecture Series in her honor. The quarterly lectures will enfold the Aging Successfully series she initiated some years ago, along with other topics of contemporary concern ranging from health issues to modern art.
The most entertaining tribute came from Mrs. Stratton's daughter Cay Stratton, who attended the event along with her sister Cary Stratton Boyd and niece Caroline Boyd. "Cay Junior" regaled the audience with tales of her mother teaching blackjack and poker to Cay and her sisters "to sharpen our computational skills," efficiently dispatching garden-stalking woodchucks with a .22, mollifying protesting students with "a cup of tea and a chat," and avidly engaging in sport with family and guests ("none are spared the vicious slash of her Ping-Pong forehand or the merciless drive of her croquet mallet," she said of her mother, to audience laughter).
"Nothing in my 80 years has prepared me for this moment," Mrs. Stratton said after being serenaded by the Logarhythms and toasted by all. She paid tribute to the Women's League, "one of the most exciting, vigorous, vital institutions that I know of," and said that her work and learning experiences at MIT "have made my life absolutely and unrelentingly exciting and worthwhile, and just such fun."
A version of this article appeared in the January 26, 1994 issue of MIT Tech Talk (Volume 38, Number 20).