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The Fulton legacy – ten years of strengthening education in Arizona and beyond

A photograph of a memorial for Mary Lou Fulton

A memorial for Mary Lou Fulton, the namesake of the Mary Lou Fulton Teachers College. Robin Kiyutelluk/Arizona State University

April 26, 2016

The Mary Lou Fulton Teachers College Tuesday honored the tenth anniversary of Ira and Mary Lou Fulton’s gift to endow the school and recognized the college’s rise as a national model for teacher preparation, a home for innovative research and a game-changing partner for schools and communities to better the lives of students.

“We’ve set the standard for colleges of education in the entire country,” said Dean Mari Koerner. “And we’re only getting started.”

Koerner joined Ira Fulton, members of the Fulton family and ASU President Michael Crow for a celebration in the atrium of the Farmer Education Building attended by faculty, students and alumni.

The $25 million gift to the teachers college was personal for the Fultons because Mary Lou, who died last year, earned her teaching degree from ASU. Her graduation in 1975 followed a nearly two-decade pause in her studies in order to raise her family.

“My mom rode a bike to her classes at ASU,” said daughter Lorie Nicholls. “She said it was a nineteen year journey, but she finally got her teaching degree.”

Immediately after graduating, Mary Lou went on to teach reading to students in Phoenix schools. 

“Those children were precious,” she said in 2003, “and I learned more from them than they did from me.”

While she touched the lives of hundreds of students, her legacy of education continues at the same teachers college where she earned her degree.

The Fulton Family’s gift transformed the school. In 2010, three separate education colleges merged to create the Mary Lou Fulton Teacher’s College, uniquely focused on both teacher preparation and research.

Since the Fulton family’s gift, the teachers college created an award-winning teacher preparation program that educates more than 1,000 new teachers each year. The unique iTeachAZ program places teacher candidates in schools for a full-year senior residency and better prepares future teachers by giving them practical learning experiences. The program, lauded by schools, districts and the U.S. Secretary of Education, is reshaping how schools of education teach future generations of educators.

Mary Lou Fulton Teachers College also continues to generate groundbreaking research. The gift from the Fultons allowed the school to endow new professorships, fund faculty research and support more postdoctoral students. New investments in research enabled the Teachers College to rise to 14th nationally in the latest US News and World Report rankings of graduate schools.

The college’s impact extends far beyond campus to the thousands of students learning from the college’s graduates and to its 300 partner schools in Arizona. 

ASU President Michael Crow told Tuesday’s crowd how the college, in tackling critical challenges in education, has taken on the mission of creating a steady supply of educators capable of preparing future generations of citizens in Arizona and beyond. 

“The teacher determines the success of our society,” Crow said. “What we’ve been able to do here is devote ourselves to creating the best teacher possible who will be able to go out and affect thousands of lives.”

The college is already marching into a second decade of meeting the challenges facing U.S. education, expanding its role as a nationally recognized leader in teacher education, creating interdisciplinary knowledge and research and securing in its role as a place where young people grow into passionate educators and transformational education leaders.

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