Jim Strate was born in Independence, Missouri, and was raised on a farm outside Holden, Missouri, 40 miles east of Kansas City. He graduated from high school in 1965 and began college at Central Missouri State University that summer. Shortly after, in August 1965, he married Sharon Fizer.
Strate earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Central Missouri State University and a doctorate in education at the University of Missouri.
He worked at various educational institutions in Kansas and Missouri. In 1977, the Strate family moved to Oklahoma. Strate worked at Great Plains Area Vocational and Technical School, where he served for 10 years as director of adult education, assistant superintendent and deputy superintendent.
Strate moved to Enid in 1991 when he accepted the position of superintendent of Autry Technology Center. During his tenure, enrollment rose from 2,000 to more than 16,000. Programs were added, cutting-edge equipment was purchased, and several additions were made to the building to meet the growing training needs of area citizens and companies. Strate also began the Autry Tech Foundation, which has raised more than $500,000 for scholarships and loans for students needing financial assistance.
Strate is a local leader in economic development efforts. Under his direction, Autry Tech plays a major role in the recruitment of new companies to Enid and the training of the new workforce. He was a founding board member of the Enid/Garfield County Economic Development Alliance and the Enid/Garfield County Workforce Development Board and is involved in the Greater Enid Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors, the Enid Rotary Club and the Grand National Quail Hunt.
Strate is known throughout Oklahoma as a trailblazer for career and technology education. He has provided leadership that has significantly affected the statewide system of technology centers. He has served as the president and legislative chair for the Oklahoma Technology Centers Superintendents Association and played a major role in the Oklahoma Vocational Education Teacher Development System, the Oklahoma Vocational and Leadership Development Committee and the Distance Education Policy Committee.
For his commitment and dedication to growing the workforce, Autry Tech dedicated the James W. Strate Center for Business Development in 2008. This incubator provides professional business training to those interested in starting, expanding or operating a small business.
Strate retired in June 2015. He and his family are involved in the registered Angus business and own Strate Family Cattle Company and Strate Ranch.
Jim and his wife, Sharon, have one daughter, Christie, and one son, Jim Jr.; a daughter-in-law, Janet; two grandchildren, Justin and his wife, Lexi, and Jarred; and one great-granddaughter, Layton Jane.
Dr. James Strate was inducted into the CareerTech Hall of Fame in 2017.