Marilyn Burkell Roth nearly dropped out of college following the unexpected death of her father during her freshman year at Oswego. Now a scholarship endowed in memory of this Oswego alumna, who went on to a life of accomplishment, will provide a second chance for future Oswego students who need support after a setback in their lives.

“She was very academically inclined,” said her husband of 50 years, John Robert “Bob” Roth. “But her father died suddenly, her grades suffered and she went from an outstanding scholar to considering leaving school.”

Marilyn Burkell Roth and Bob RothDecades later, she would be a driving force in helping high school girls stay in school long enough to graduate as a founding member of the International Trade Education Programs, a California-based non-profit organization formed in the 1990s. ITEP brings together private industry and public education to provide opportunities for high school students at risk, serving students from seven public high schools in low-income communities.

“She became a mentor for high school girls, guiding them to earn what was often the first high school diploma in their families,” her husband said. “She was instrumental in their success.”

For her efforts to facilitate students on the path of achievement through education, Marilyn Roth received a Congressional Commendation from the U.S. House of Representatives, as well as letters of commendation from the California legislature, several California senators, the Los Angeles Unified School District board of education, and the city and county of Los Angeles. She earned ITEP’s prestigious Bill Stein Memorial Leadership Award in March 2014. She died in August 2014.

New scholarships

In honor of her life—and the life they navigated together since they met at SUNY Oswego—her husband dedicated the Marilyn Burkell Roth ‘63 and John Robert Roth ‘64 Second Chance Scholarship to her memory.

It is one of five new endowed scholarships that Roth created to support students at SUNY Oswego. In addition to the Second Chance Scholarship, he established two scholarships for students in the School of Education, one scholarship for a non-traditional student and one scholarship for a student majoring in technology.

Each annual award is $1,500 and is renewable for up to five years.

From Oswego to professional success

Bob Roth, a non-traditional student, worked construction and machine shop jobs for a year between high school and college, and continued working construction while he was a full-time student.

He said professors helped to mentor Marilyn Roth during her difficult time, support that enabled her to continue her studies and earn a bachelor’s degree in education. She went on to be a teacher, a programmer for IBM, and an executive for Security Pacific National Bank and the California Federal Bank.

Avid members of the boating community, Bob Roth, who served as a U.S. Navy officer for four years following graduation, and Marilyn Roth, who taught seamanship and became the first female commodore of the Santa Monica Bay Power Fleet in 1984, traveled extensively from their California coast home.

“When she put her mind to something, she really ran with it,” he said of his wife’s dedication to all of her pursuits. “We’ve had such a variety of life experiences, and it’s easy to see how a 360-turnaround in someone’s life can make a difference.”

For more details about scholarship criteria and application information, visit