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    Remembering Ruth Stricker, Fitness Industry Founding Mother

    Ruth Stricker Dayton, founder, owner, and executive director of The Marsh, A Center for Balance and Fitness, and a founding member of IHRSA, passed away on April 14, 2020.

    Ruth Stricker Dayton, founder, owner, and executive director of The Marsh, A Center for Balance and Fitness, and a founding member of IHRSA, passed away on April 14, 2020, surrounded by her friends and family after a brief hospital stay in Minneapolis. She was 85 years old.

    Ruth was a pioneer in the integrative approach to health and wellness and started the Minnetonka, MN-club in 1985 by blending both allopathic and alternative disciplines, with an acupuncturist and a cardiologist working side by side.

    Industry news Ruth Stricker collage column

    A frequent traveler to China, Ruth was an ardent devotee of tai chi, and incorporated elements of Chinese architecture and Eastern mysticism in the club’s distinctive aesthetic, contributing to the sense of serenity. The mind-body programming and wellness services that Ruth introduced, delivered, and championed are regarded as part of the health and fitness industry’s canon, its core curriculum. Her vision, personal example, and unrelenting efforts have motivated and had an indelible impact on the fitness community for nearly 35 years, and continues to this very day.

    A Minnesota native, Ruth designed the 67,000-square-foot facility situated in the sprawling, idyllic marshlands of Minnetonka, as an inclusive environment, providing programs and services in keeping with her comprehensive wellness philosophy.

    “The Marsh was her personal creation and had her unique imprint…with its abundance of wonderful fine art, its multiple places to congregate and relax, and, above all, its warmth and friendliness,” said IHRSA Executive Director Emeritus John McCarthy. “The Marsh was Ruth’s creation, and every inch of it spoke of her.”

    Ruth was revered for her leadership, service, and generosity, not only in the fitness and wellness world, but as a supporter of education and the arts. According to the Macalester College website, she served on the Macalester Alumni Board and Board of Trustees from 1995 to 2016 and was elected to Emerita status immediately following her retirement. Among many other honors and accolades, Ruth received the Macalester Distinguished Citizen Award in 1987 and the Trustees Award for Meritorious and Distinguished Service in 2018.

    “Connected in love and gratitude for her immeasurable contributions over the course of a remarkable life, Ruth’s family, friends and professional colleagues around the world honor this visionary of the health and wellness industry.”

    Dayna Deutsch

    The Marsh

    Along with her late husband Bruce B. Dayton, Ruth was extraordinarily generous to Macalester and to numerous other community organizations. The Ruth Stricker Dayton Campus Center was named in her honor in 2001, and Markim Hall was named in recognition of the Dayton family in 2009.

    “Ruth’s spirit and vision for The Marsh and for the industry touched me...and I shall always be thankful for that experience and the opportunity to know her,” said Helen Durkin, IHRSA’s executive vice president of public policy. “The industry is better for her contributions and mourns her loss.”

    Ruth is survived by her daughter and son-in-law Kim and Bob Griffin; grandchildren Grace and Jack; son Mark Stricker; brother and sister-in-law Paul and Kathleen DeBeer; former spouse David Stricker; and her ever-faithful yellow lab, Beau, according to a tribute written by The Marsh’s Dayna Deutsch.

    “Connected in love and gratitude for her immeasurable contributions over the course of a remarkable life, Ruth’s family, friends and professional colleagues around the world honor this visionary of the health and wellness industry,” Deutsch wrote.

    IHRSA offers our sincere condolences to the Stricker and Dayton family. You can read more about Ruth and The Marsh in the February 2020 issue of Club Business International.

    Author avatar

    Carolynn Jordan

    Carolynn Jordan is the Member Communication Specialist for IHRSA. She develops outreach that helps IHRSA members best use their benefits and stay engaged in the IHRSA community. When she isn’t working, Carolynn is likely researching what city she’ll run her 10th marathon in.