Obituary of Gayden Carruth
Gayden Fisher Carruth died on Wednesday, November 29, in Livingston, New Jersey. She was 79 years old. Carruth devoted her entire career to public education, serving as a teacher, principal, superintendent, and mentor to scores of educators. She broke new ground in every stage of her life – as a pioneering school administrator and as a powerful role model for her family and for thousands of people whose lives she touched.
Carruth is survived by her three children: Gene Keifer, married to David Keifer; Clement Stovall, married to Ashley Stovall; and Neal Carruth, married to Emily Barocas. She was married for 38 years to Edwin Ronald Carruth, who died in 2010, and was a grandmother to six grandchildren: Marguerite, Jackson, Katie, Sofie, Max, and Dylan.
Carruth was born on November 25, 1944, in Greenville, Mississippi. A brother, Eugene Fisher, died in 2016. Carruth graduated from Mississippi College with a bachelor’s degree in elementary education. She earned a master’s degree in 1969, writing a thesis on computer-assisted instruction, a field then in its infancy.
Carruth’s career in public education began in McComb, Mississippi, where she was an elementary school teacher and principal. There she met and married Edwin Carruth, known as “Ron.” Both Carruth and her husband were deeply involved in the desegregation of the public school system, solidifying a lifelong commitment to equity in education.
In 1971, Carruth and her husband moved to Minnesota. She continued her graduate education at the University of Minnesota, completing a PhD in educational administration in 1980. Her dissertation focused on school finance. After stints as an administrator in Inver Grove Heights and Wayzata, Carruth was named superintendent of schools in Shakopee in 1985.
Carruth and her family moved to Virginia, where she served as the superintendent of the Williamsburg-James City County school system from 1990 to 1994.
In 1994, Carruth became superintendent of the Park Hill School District in the Kansas City, Missouri, metropolitan area. She served in Park Hill until 2005 and was widely regarded as a transformational leader, opening new educational facilities and expanding the role of technology in the classroom. The Missouri Association of School Administrators (MASA) named Carruth the 1998 Superintendent of the Year.
In all three of her top leadership roles – in school districts in Minnesota, Virginia, and Missouri – Carruth made history as the first female superintendent.
In 2008, Carruth became executive director of the Cooperating School Districts of Greater Kansas City (CSDGKC), an educational cooperative association. In that role, she mentored educational leaders from around the region and advocated for policies to improve educational outcomes. Upon retiring in 2019, Carruth said, “What I feel best about is that in every position I’ve held, I left the organization better than it was when I arrived.”
In 2021, Carruth moved to West Orange, New Jersey, to be near her son Neal and his family.
In lieu of flowers, Carruth’s family requests that donations be made to the Dr. Gayden Carruth Student Grants fund with the Park Hill Education Foundation. There is a donation form at parkhillfoundation.org.To plant a beautiful memorial tree in memory of Gayden Carruth, please visit our Tree Store