Percy Strowhorn keeps his calm

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Percy Strowhorn believes you are who you surround yourself with, and values the maturity of the environment at UW Tacoma. Maybe that’s why his friends describe him as an “old soul.”

Percy StrowhornPercy Strowhorn is an “old soul” in a new body. Or, at least that’s what his friends tell him. His ability to maintain an equilibrium—his calm acceptance of what comes his way—gives him the reputation of being wise beyond his years.

He’s proudly multi-racial (Irish, African-American and American Indian) and an avid weight lifter. He’s careful about what he puts in the “old soul container,” watching his diet and avoiding drinking and smoking.

The mature poise has been a work in progress for a while. A self-admitted “wild child” in high school, Percy went through ups and downs that often enough characterize childhood: moving from city to city, the divorce of his parents, never staying in one school for very long. He was born in Anchorage, Alaska, moved to Nebraska, moved to McChord Air Force Base, moved to Gary, Indiana and finally ended up in Federal Way.

All the moving (he was a military brat) taught him resilience and a chameleon-like ability to pick up new social norms and navigate school cultures.

But there were important stabilizing forces along the way. Despite its reputation as a rust-belt city with attendant urban problems, Gary offered Percy a number of lifelong influences. One was his grandmother, who, along with his parents, instilled into Percy an appreciation of the value of education. Another was the Episcopal church where he was an altar boy for four years. Percy speaks of the older women in the church and their kindness, and how he learned to value his relationships with adults of all ages.

Perhaps his easy interaction with adults gives him an “old soul” quality. But perhaps it’s also a quality of forthrightness. He feels his blunt honesty is the product of his mother’s passion for life and “my father’s kindness. My dad is the kindest man you’ll ever meet in your life.”

Another old-soul characteristic might be how quickly he adopts guiding principles. Honesty is the best policy. Lead with your intellect, follow with your heart. You are who you surround yourself with. Do unto others as you would have them do unto you—also known as The Golden Rule.

That last one came into play when he attended high school in Washington. Surprisingly, it wasn’t in Gary, Indiana, that Percy experienced personally the subtle realities of race relations in America, but at Decatur High School in Federal Way, where he learned that conforming to a racial stereotype surely led to discriminatory attitudes from faculty and fellow students.

With his UW Tacoma degree in hand, Percy wants to continue an academic track into industrial and organizational psychology. He sees himself with a PhD working in a corporate setting, or teaching at a place like UW Tacoma or Highline Community College, or even working for the FBI or CIA. When he looks back, he’ll remember his “old soul” days at UW Tacoma.

Written by: 
John Burkhardt / June 6, 2013
Media contact: 

John Burkhardt, UW Tacoma Communications, 253-692-4536 or