Planned gift from Fruth bolsters scholarship support for School of Education


‘Accidental professor’ Fruth makes planed gift
to bolster scholarships for School of Education

The University of Wisconsin-Madison has meant different things to Marvin Fruth during different periods of his life.

At first, it was little more than a giant playground for Fruth and his pals growing up in Madison. Later, it was a place to study, learn and grow as a student. Finally, it’s where Fruth spent nearly three decades as a highly regarded faculty member with the School of Education.

Recently, Professor Emeritus Marvin Fruth and his wife of 64 years, Beatrice, committed a planned gift to the School of Education that will bolster scholarship support for undergraduate students. When asked why he made such a commitment, Fruth paused.

“Well, I guess I feel like I owe it to this great place, and my wife agreed” he says. “We’ve had a pretty good life. Not bad for an ‘accidental professor.’ ”

While growing up in the 1930s and 1940s about a mile south of campus, Fruth recalls how campus was a great place to hang out.

Marv Fruth“My friends and I would go to the top floor of Science Hall and slide down the old fire escape chute until the janitor would chase us away,” Fruth says with a laugh. “We’d climb into the top of Bascom Hall, between the ceiling and ventilation system, and we’d catch pigeons. In the fall we’d sneak into football games at Camp Randall Stadium.”

After graduating from Madison’s Central High School in 1949, Fruth didn’t have the funds to go to college. So he spent a year- and-a-half starting and running a tree trimming business. He then enlisted in the Marines and served in Korea, earning a Purple Heart. Fruth then used GI Bill funding to spend one semester at UW–Whitewater in 1953 before enrolling at UW–Madison, where he met and married Beatrice Ann DeHaven in 1954. He went on to earn an undergraduate degree in history and English in 1956. Over the next decade he taught at Elkhorn High School, earned a master’s in counseling and guidance from the University of Missouri, and became a guidance counselor and school psychometrist at Elkhorn. He eventually earned his Ph.D. in Educational

Administration from UW–Madison in 1966. While wrapping up his doctorate, he landed a project assistantship job working on the proposed new Educational Sciences building. The day he was to start this job, the project manager left the university for a different post — leaving Fruth, with no experience in this realm, in charge.

In 1966, the School of Education got a new dean in Donald McCarty, and McCarty hired Fruth onto the faculty. “Dean McCarty wanted to keep me on because I knew a lot about the building project, so in a way it was an ‘accidental professorship,’ ” says Fruth.

Fruth went on to have a successful career, with the Educational Sciences building opening in 1972. Fruth also worked on a range of education projects, such as: the Wisconsin Information Systems for Education (WISE), which developed automated scheduling and grade reporting for state high schools; the Urban Administrator Training Program, which involved districts in Denver, St. Louis, Milwaukee and Minneapolis; and an initiative designed to better teach black history in urban schools, which included Washington, D.C., New Orleans, Milwaukee, Racine and Beloit among its participating districts.

Fruth says his real joy came in working with students and training future principals and superintendents from around the state.

Recently, Marvin and Beatrice Fruth committed the planned gift that will bolster a Great People Scholarship that was first created in the Fruths’ name in 2012. Their son, Charles Fruth, initiated this Great People Scholarship fund to recognize the significant influence Marvin Fruth had on his students, his colleagues and his field.

This scholarship is designed to assist undergraduate students in the School of Education whose personal and family resources aren’t adequate to cover the costs involved with attending UW–Madison.

“I had a very satisfying career and was able to recruit and mentor a number of bright administrators and teachers,” says Marvin Fruth. “Hopefully these scholarships will make a difference in the lives of future educators, too.”

For information about making a gift or other donations to the School of Education, please visit

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