Hon. Todd Strange ’66 vividly remembers the first date he and his wife of nearly 53 years, Linda Davis Strange ’67, took while they were both students at what was then Alabama College.
Todd’s fraternity, which was then known as the Sigma Club and was the precursor to UM’s current Alpha Tau Omega chapter, had organized a hayride, and he had asked Linda to accompany him as his date.
The two had met several days earlier while attending Sunday School at Montevallo Presbyterian Church and were enjoying each other’s company during the hayride when an unexpected hiccup halted the event.
“We had gotten to a dam on a lake a little outside of Montevallo, and the truck pulling the hayride couldn’t drive across it,” Todd said. “We had to all get out and carry our dates across the dam, and I dropped her. She ended up wrapped in a blanket in the cab of the truck, and the rest, as they say, is history.”
“There is no embellishment in that story. It is, in fact, the truth,” Todd said with a laugh as Linda voiced her agreement with him. “There are many reasons we want to give back to Montevallo, but chief among them is the fact that we met each other there.”
The perfect fit
Todd and Linda followed different paths leading to UM, but both knew they belonged once they set foot on campus.
While Todd was a student at Murphy High School in Mobile, he and his uncle attended a men’s retreat at UM, and the college’s beautiful offerings and number of students aligned with what he was looking for in a higher education institution.
Linda came to Montevallo from Dothan a year after Todd, and said she instantly fell in love with everything about the college.
“I did not want to go to a large school at all; that just wasn’t what I was looking for,” she said, noting two of her aunts were Alabama College alumni. “When I first visited Montevallo, it was exactly what I thought a college campus should look like.”
The two continued their courtship throughout their time at Montevallo, and Todd graduated with a bachelor’s degree in political science in 1966. The following year, during Linda’s final semester as a student before earning her undergraduate degree in elementary education, the two were married.
Following graduation, Linda went on to become an elementary school teacher, and Todd accepted a job with the South Central Bell company, where he worked in several leadership roles. As Todd progressed in his career, he later served as the president and chief executive officer of the Blount Development Corporation, director of the Alabama Department of Commerce, senior vice president of administration for Blount International and president, CEO and co-owner of the Blount Strange Automotive Group.
Todd was the chairman of the Montgomery County Commission for nearly five years before he was elected mayor of Montgomery in a special election in 2009 and re-elected to full terms in 2011 and 2015.
‘Important for us to give back’
Since their time as students, Todd and Linda have remained extremely involved with the University, and have made a permanent positive impact on the school through their gifts of time and treasure.
Today, Todd is the chairman of the Board of Trustees, and he previously served as the president of the UM National Alumni Association Board of Directors. The family has made significant monetary contributions to the University over the years, establishing the Todd and Linda Strange Scholarship Fund for education majors from Montgomery and supporting the Bruce D. Higdon Brotherhood Scholarship for active members of the ATO fraternity.
In 2015, the couple established the Todd and Linda Strange Endowed Professorship, which provides a three-year stipend to a deserving distinguished professor to spend on classes, research, travel and other items. Associate Professor of Biology Dr. Brett Noerager was appointed as the inaugural recipient of the endowed professorship, and Professor of Music Dr. Jody Landers became the second recipient earlier this year.
“Great students come about because of great professors, and I definitely had some great professors when I was at school there,” Todd said. “When you’ve got good students, a great professor can develop them and lead them to accomplish great things.”
For the Stranges, enjoying the fruits of the quality education they received at UM comes with a responsibility to ensure the University’s faculty and students continue to excel in their efforts to impact Alabama, the nation and the world.
“Your degree is only as valuable as the reputation of the school as it stands today. We have always had an appreciation of what the University of Montevallo did for us,” Todd said. “We try to support Montevallo to the extent that we can. In doing so, maybe we can serve as an example to others to also give back.
“It’s important for us to give back to the school that made us what we are today,” he added. “When a college provides that foundation for your life, not only do you have a responsibility to give back, I think you’ve got an obligation to do so.”