Academics and Research / Magazine Feature

DU graduate degrees are a family affair for the studious Von Strohs

The Von stroh family

The Von Stroh Family, with nine (soon to be 10) DU graduate degrees among them, not including father Gordon Von Stroh’s own doctorate from the University of Oklahoma. Photo: Courtesy of the Von Stroh family.

When the Von Stroh family sits down for a holiday dinner, they can hold their own University of Denver alumni meeting … or an academic conference.

With the Aug. 13 summer Commencement ceremony, the Von Strohs add their 10th graduate degree to the family as Jonathan Von Stroh accepts his mathematics doctorate.

Since patriarch Gordon Von Stroh joined the University as a professor of administration in 1967, his wife, Patrice, and then their three children have earned multiple DU graduate degrees.

“Education has always been important to us,” says Gordon Von Stroh, who leads DU’s Commencement committee, preparing each year to usher new graduates across the stage into the DU alumni community. He also is a professor of management and director of the MBA-customized program and the master’s of management program in the Daniels College of Business.

In his Commencement planning role, he’s also taken part in graduation ceremonies that included everyone in his family. Patrice Von Stroh earned a master’s in counseling psychology in 1991 and her doctorate in counseling psychology in 1998. Daughter Christina Von Stroh earned a bachelor’s in psychology in 2001, followed by a master’s in digital media and an MBA, both in 2003. Son Jonathan Von Stroh also earned a master’s in mathematics and an MBA in 2005; and son Justin Von Stroh earned his law degree in 2008 and a master’s in management in 2009.

With education a lifelong passion for Gordon Von Stroh and his wife, he says the couple made every effort to incorporate education into every aspect of their lives.

“Education to our family was not just formal education, but travel, family discussions, new experiences, volunteer efforts,” he says. “Learning was not just for the children, but the total family. Education can provide more perspectives and opportunities for people, not just employment.”

Son Justin Von Stroh says the roots of his academic career go back to childhood at the Ricks Center. “All through my academic career, I have been more focused on learning than on the final grade,” he says. “This should come as no surprise from the kid who preferred to have books instead of stuffed animals, and regularly snuck a flashlight under the covers to read after bedtime.”

That theme of family commitment to education from childhood also can be heard from Jonathan Von Stroh. “Our parents always helped us answer any homework questions we may have had,” he says. “Afternoons were filled with whatever learning opportunities we desired, be it piano, voice, or trumpet lessons, or tae kwon do practices, or speech and debate team meetings. Every family vacation was filled with trips to various museums and historical sites.”

For his sister, Christina, those roots go back even further. “I was almost born at DU … seriously,” she says. “Dad was supposed to teach a class that morning (I was 3 weeks early) and needed to get the course materials to the substitute. Fortunately, there was just enough time for him to get mom to the hospital, drop off the materials, and make it back in time for my delivery. But so began a life-long relationship between me and DU.”

Patrice Von Stroh decided to go back to school at DU after Jonathon Von Stroh was old enough to enter the Ricks Center. Having a husband on campus who values education as much as she does was a big help, she says, and Professor Von Stroh would regularly take on car pool duties and share all the challenges of raising children. It took eight years, but she earned a master’s degree and a PhD.

“After dinner, it was homework time for all of us,” she recalls. “During coursework to learn how to give educational assessments, my classmates and I all ‘traded’ our kids to practice giving the assessments. They were all willing participants in helping mom and her classmates pass the course. All three children had a hand in proofreading and editing my dissertation.”

Gordon Von Stroh will again take his traditional place on stage as the coordinator of DU’s Commencement exercises. And he’ll be up on stage when Jonathan Von Stroh accepts his diploma. In a family steeped in DU degrees, his wife adds, “we have our own cheering section at Von Stroh commencements, with dad onstage with the graduate.”

Summer Commencement will be held at 8:30 a.m. Aug. 13 at DU’s Carnegie Green. The speaker will be Rahmat Shoureshi, dean of DU’s School of Engineering and Computer Science. For more information or to watch a live video stream, visit


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