Strachan's captaincy of the 1997 Vanier Cup Champion UBC Thunderbirds football team and subsequently of the McGill Redmen football team are testament to his leadership and commitment to others. Earning All-Star status in both leagues, 5-time Academic All-Canadian Honours, the Russ Jackson Award as the top community, academic and athletic achiever in the Province of Quebec and twice bestowed with the prestigious Canadian Interuniversity Sports Award as one of the Top 8 most outstanding academic, leadership and athletic performers in Canadian sports are tributes of his tremendous work ethic and strength of character. His successful completion of medical school while battling cancer speaks to the bravery and determination of this truly remarkable man who wanted to make a difference in this world. But most of all, Strachan will be remembered for his warm sense of humor, compassion, humility and integrity.
Strachan Hartley comes from an active, adventurous, athletic family. Sister Blythe Hartley is an Olympic medalist diver for Canada and two-time World Champion. Brother Wyatt was a running back at Queen's and a linebacker at UBC – and once backpacked through the Amazon. Father Michael played football and competed in the 1972 Sapporo Olympics as a brakeman on Canada's bobsled team; mother Mary-Ann is a distance runner. Sister Aimée-Noël was a two-time NCAA giant slalom champion while competing for the University of Colorado.
His diagnosis came during his final year of medical school. While the rest of the class was studying about how to save patients' lives, Strachan was struggling to save his own while taking the same classes as everyone else. He endured more than six months of chemotherapy and radiation therapy, but still managed to graduate with the rest of the class. Not only did Hartley graduate after being advised to drop out by McGill's dean of students – he managed to finish in the top 15 per cent of his class and earned a spot in one of the most competitive specialties in the nation's best program.
Three months into his orthopedic surgery residency at McGill, and after 8 months of treatment, doctors revealed that the cancer had persisted despite their efforts. He had to return for more chemotherapy. The cancer then failed to respond to the second line of treatment, which put Strachan into the bottom five per cent of non-Hodgkin's lymphoma patients. Doctors continued using the most aggressive resources available, but after 19 months of fighting, revealed the tragic news that the cancer was resistant to all treatments and was terminal. Two months later, and following a tremendous fight, cancer took Strachan's life in July 2007.
Throughout his illness, and true to the spirit he has demonstrated throughout his life, Strachan handled himself with utmost character. Under the circumstances, you might expect Hartley to do at least a little complaining, to wonder why such a disease should affect a young, healthy man in his prime; yet he understood how fortunate he was to have been able to live life to its fullest and surrounded by friends and family who love him deeply. Despite all the pain, suffering and anguish his ethos remained the same: look for the positive in every day, fight for life and never lose hope. During the worst of times, his courage and resilience remained at their very best.
In a world full of injustice and confusion, Strachan's goal was always clear - do something special, make a difference in the lives of others. His whole life was built around achieving that single goal. While his outstanding achievements are a true testament to hard-work, strength of character and a nurturing environment, it is the humility and compassion with which he lived his life that are his most amazing achievement of all.