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Private Life, Profound Legacy

Myrtle Stroud in 1930

Up until a few months ago, no one at the University of Minnesota knew the names Myrtle and Charles Stroud. Now, they stand to become among the most recognized on the Twin Cities campus.

The University recently learned of a transformational gift of nearly $14 million from the estate of Myrtle Stroud to start a scholarship program in her name and that of her husband in the College of Liberal Arts (CLA). Because of a woman the University barely knew, hundreds of students will realize their dream of a college education thanks to her profound contribution—the largest scholarship gift in University history—to the U's drive for increased student support.

Something of a Mystery

Myrtle Stroud, a widow who died last year at the age of 101, is remembered as a private and reclusive person. She outlived most of her contemporaries in Windom, Minn. She and Charles had no siblings, and did not have children of their own.

"Myrtle Stroud is something of a mystery," explains CLA External Relations Director Mary Hicks. "What we know has been pieced together from old newspaper clippings, a visit to her hometown, and conversations with advisers, distant relatives, and acquaintances."

She was born Myrtle Erickson in Winsted, Minn., in 1909, and attended the historic Miss Wood's School in Minneapolis, one of the first preparatory academies in the nation for teachers of kindergarten and young children. After her graduation in 1929, Myrtle taught for many years in Faribault and in other schools in southern Minnesota. She took classes at the U of M's College of Science, Literature, and Arts (SLA, now CLA) in 1932, and took pride in her education and in teaching.

In 1943 Myrtle married Charles Stroud of Windom, who had been an SLA student at the University in the early 1920s, and went on to manage area movie theaters, several business interests, and property holdings. The couple was involved in their church, were leaders in their community, and enjoyed golf, bridge, and travel. Memorable trips included one to Cuba, and another on the Queen Mary for a family wedding in England.

Investment in the State

After Charles' death in 1973, Myrtle became a savvy investor, and for the rest of her life worked hard to grow her nest egg and keep up with the changing times. While Myrtle's life in later decades was focused on Windom, in the end she made a substantial investment in the state of Minnesota.

"The University of Minnesota is our state's glowing gem," says U of M President Eric Kaler. "Transformational gifts like the Charles and Myrtle Stroud Scholarship fund make an enormous contribution to enhancing the University's statewide role, its national reputation for excellence, and its ability to prepare young Minnesotans to be the best and smartest they can be."

In light of declining state support and the need to increase tuition while remaining accessible to talented students of all backgrounds, scholarship support is a University priority. The Stroud gift significantly advances this key initiative.

Myrtle's intention was to create opportunity for young minds wanting a college education. With this gift to the U, she will make an impact that may be even more far-reaching than she imagined, as one day scores of students will proudly bear the name, "Stroud Scholar."

Felt for Generations

"Gifts to the college come in many ways, but the Charles E. and Myrtle L. Stroud Scholarship is very special," says CLA Dean James Parente. "It has the potential to open the doors to talented students for whom financial considerations are an obstacle to a college education, and to give us more flexibility to address their changing needs."

Among those needs are new scholarships for incoming students, renewable scholarships for returning students, scholarships for transfer students from community and other colleges, and more. The scholarship fund will increase the number of CLA scholarships by some 15 percent, providing support to top students with financial need.

"With the high rate of transfer students and the growing need for scholarship funds, this generous gift helps us respond to emerging trends," dean Parente adds. "The return on the Strouds' investment in CLA students will be felt for generations to come."