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Mary Lou Fulton, educator and philanthropist, dies at 82

Fulton and her husband, Ira, are the largest individual donors in ASU's history

MARY LOU FULTON TEACHERS COLLEGE ASU generous dontations donor

October 02, 2015

Mary Lou Fulton, an alumna of Arizona State University and one of its most generous supporters, died Thursday. She was 82.

Fulton and her husband, Ira A. Fulton, are the largest individual donors in the university’s history.

Visitors need only walk through campus to realize the impact the Fultons have had on ASU. Their names grace university schools and buildings; ASU’s Teachers College is named for Mary Lou.

"Mary Lou’s great passion was teaching children to read, lifting their self-esteem and giving them lifelong learning skills,” said ASU President Michael M. Crow. "Her lessons of kindness, selflessness and enduring commitment are embedded in this university, this city and this state, and in the thousands of teachers who will graduate from her college and go on to transform teaching and learning across this nation."

As a child, Fulton dreamed of being a teacher. In the early 1950s, she enrolled in ASU’s then-College of Education. She would put her education on hold to raise her family, but returned to earn her degree in 1975.

Her dream would become a calling.

“I loved working with my students in remedial reading,” Fulton said in 2003. “Those children were precious, and I learned more from them than they did from me.”

“It is impossible to find a better, more caring person than Mary Lou Fulton."

— Mari Koerner, dean, Mary Lou Fulton Teachers College

Throughout her life, she was a tireless champion of education and teachers.

“So much of what we are doing at the college is an expression of her commitment to education and to providing the best possible opportunities for the greatest number of people,” said Mari Koerner, the dean of the Mary Lou Fulton Teachers College. “We will miss her exemplary virtues of quiet persistence and enduring commitment, along with her contagious laugh and ever-present smile.”

Mary Lou Henson was born in Phoenix on Aug. 10, 1933. She attended Whittier Elementary and Phoenix Union High School before coming to ASU. She met Ira Fulton, then an ASU football player, in 1953. They wed in June 1954 and had three children.

The Fultons shared their success prodigiously. In addition to the Mary Lou Fulton Teachers College, Ira and Mary Lou encouraged others to give to the university through the Fulton Challenge grant-match program. The Fultons’ financial support includes the gifts that established the Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering and the ASU Decision Theater. The ASU Foundation building is also named for the Fultons.

Koerner describes Fulton as the “first lady” of the Teachers College, and someone whose legacy inspires the best out of the institution.

“It is impossible to find a better, more caring person than Mary Lou Fulton,” Koerner said.

The Fulton family has generously requested that those wishing to honor Mary Lou Fulton’s legacy consider making a memorial gift to Mary Lou Fulton Teachers College Memorial Fund. Gifts can be made online at or mailed to: Kimberlee Rowe, Assistant Director Business & Fiscal Operations, Mary Lou Fulton Teachers College, Arizona State University, P.O. Box 37100, Phoenix, Arizona 85069-7100.

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