Mary Lou Fulton (1933–2015)

It is with great sadness that I share news of the passing of Mary Lou Fulton. It was a joy to know this wonderful woman. And so I also celebrate Mary Lou Fulton’s life and reflect, with deep gratitude, on her role in partnering with her husband, Ira A. Fulton, in supporting Arizona State University and our college, which now proudly bears her name: Mary Lou Fulton Teachers College. 

Mary Lou Fulton was born in Phoenix, Arizona, on August 10, 1933. She attended Whittier Elementary and Phoenix Union High School before coming to ASU, from which she graduated in 1975. Throughout her life, she was a tireless champion of education and teachers. Her passion inspired her husband, Ira, and together the couple directed a significant amount of their philanthropy to education.

Those of us at the college who have been fortunate enough to know Mary Lou — to celebrate with her and take pride in our students’ accomplishments — are grateful to have known her. 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. We will miss her exemplary virtues of quiet persistence and enduring commitment, along with her contagious laugh and ever-present smile.

Mary Lou loved to visit with undergraduate students in the college who were preparing to be teachers. She would give them advice and encouragement. I recall one student telling Mary Lou how proud she was to receive a diploma with "Mary Lou Fulton" on it.

I cannot remember any occasion — whether formal or informal — when Ira Fulton did not express his love for Mary Lou. He has always thought, with good reason, that he married the “greatest gal” in the world. It’s a message he repeated often, most recently this past September when he spoke to our incoming first-year undergraduates at our “Camp Teach” orientation session in Prescott. And, at convocation, he would point to her, alongside him on the stage, and publicly pronounce his love.  She was a woman who loved her family, her children, grandchildren and great grandchildren, other people’s children, and her fellow human beings with a gigantic heart and pure soul. It is impossible to find a better, more caring person than Mary Lou Fulton.

Entrusted to manage an institution that bears the name of Mary Lou Fulton, all of us at the college strive to be worthy of her legacy. We offer our deepest condolences to Mary Lou’s family. She will always be the “first lady” of our college and our inspiration to be the best that we can be.

Mari Koerner
Dean, Mary Lou Fulton Teachers College
Arizona State University

P.S. 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. Gifts can be made online at or mailed to:

Kimberlee Rowe
Assistant Director Business and Fiscal Operations
Mary Lou Fulton Teachers College
Arizona State University
P.O. Box 37100
Phoenix, Arizona 85069-7100