Ruth Stricker founded The Marsh in 1985 when she was 50 years old—not a time in life when most people are looking for new worlds to conquer—but Stricker is a believer in things unfolding in their own time, so she was ready to begin the journey when the path opened.
The Marsh, located in Minnetonka, has become a leader in the wellness/spa industry. Stricker prefers to talk about it being part of what she calls the wholistic health and wellness movement, but whatever label you put on it, both she and The Marsh are international stars in the business. In 2019, Stricker was awarded the Women in Wellness Industry Icon Award by American Spa magazine. She's seen as an icon by her peers, but she has a somewhat different view of herself. As her professional and capable staff have taken on more and more of the day-to-day operations, she sees her role as being something of a disrupter.
“They all have their responsibilities and they are focused on that, and sometimes they get a little into their own routines and I think that’s my responsibility—to jar them out of their routines. I’m a futurist … I don’t enjoy just maintaining something; I like to look ahead.”
The Marsh was at the forefront of a new way of looking at health and wellness. Founded with, among other innovations, an acupuncturist and a cardiologist working side by side, it raised some eyebrows in 1985. But growing skepticism about traditional medicine, combined with the phenomenal growth of the then newly born fitness industry, put her in the right place at the right time.
Along with her late husband, Bruce Dayton, Stricker has always been deeply involved in a wide variety of philanthropic projects. The couple traveled widely, and Stricker observed how people formed communities in different cultures.
“I noticed early on how people liked to tarry at The Marsh,” she says. “American life has created a kind of loneliness for so many people. To be happy we need to feel part of something.”
To create a community that really let people feel connected, Stricker knew that she had to listen to what they were searching for. “I told my staff not to read fitness manuals and self-help books,” she says. “I told them to read the front page of the newspaper. That’s how we will know where our people are.”
Stricker hopes that looking outward and being part of the community will always be part of the mission of The Marsh.
“I worry that we’re in danger of focusing too much on improving our inner selves. People need help being more resilient, so that they can be good citizens of the world.”