Fritz and Mary Lee Duda
Mary Lee Nagle Duda (1961 B.A.) continues to make University of Iowa fans cheer, years after she last set down the black-and-gold pom poms in 1961.
Born and raised locally, Mary Lee Nagle grew up in a family well established in the Iowa City lumber and banking industries. From day one, Mary Lee was a Hawkeye. Mary Lee eventually ended up at the University of Iowa, where the vibrancy and enthusiasm made her a great fit on the Hawkeye cheerleading squad. Her time as an Iowa cheerleader remains a very special memory to her.
Fast forward almost fifty years, to 2010. Mary Lee raised six children with her husband Fritz, and they have been blessed with twelve grandchildren. Fritz wanted to surprise his wife with something special. He immediately thought of doing something to honor her passion for the University of Iowa. Fritz says that “Mary Lee would probably move back to Iowa City today if left to her own devices. Her Iowa connection is very important to her.”
His special surprise for his wife came as a special surprise to UI athletics as well, in the form of a $1.5 million dollar cash gift to establish the Mary Lee Hawkeye Spirit Fund. The Fund is an endowment dedicated to student aid (scholarship support) or other recognition of spirit squad members. The balance of the fund will be used to support all aspects of cheerleading, dance, mascot, and related spirit activities, such as attending camps or purchasing uniforms. Fritz Duda said, “Mary Lee has always been loyal to Iowa City and the University and this is a fun way for our family to honor her and to enhance and preserve the Hawkeye spirit.”
The gift is believed to be the largest of its kind for a university spirit program. Associate Athletic Director for Patron Services, Mark Jennings, commented that, “the Duda gift was one of the most unique, and enjoyable gifts I have ever worked on. The way that Fritz organized the gift - as a surprise - in Mary Lee’s honor was so inspiring, and the impact that the gift has had is incredible.”
“This is an amazing gift to the program and it will help us in numerous ways in the future,” says Gregg Niemiec, UI spirit coordinator and cheerleading coach. “This gift exemplifies remarkable dedication to our spirit squads and it will keep us going into the future. The cheer team members are very moved by the Duda’s generosity, and have really become attached to Fritz and Mary Lee.”
“Most people know that the athletic department at Iowa is self-sustaining,” says Gary Barta, UI director of athletics. “Fantastic gifts like the one from the Duda family make that selfsustainability possible. Our sincere thanks go out to Fritz and Mary Lee and their family.” “Mary Lee has probably been as loyal a Hawkeye fan as you can imagine,” Fritz said. “The first thing she wants to know when she reads the paper on a game day is if Iowa is going to be on television. She gets very excited about the Hawkeyes and exemplifies that loyalty and spirit.”
Fritz and Mary Lee currently reside in Dallas, Texas where they are owners of the Fritz Duda Company. The commitment that they made to scholarship support of the Iowa spirit squad members adds to the athletic scholarship endowment, and allows the athletic department to allocate tuition assistance to the hard working men and women who support Iowa studentathletes in competition and rally our fan base, night in and night out.