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Couple’s $3 million gift to fund scholarships

July 24, 2007 By Chris DuPre

One Madison-based couple is prepared to benefit University of Wisconsin–Madison students for years to come, thanks to their decision to speed up the timetable on a lifelong goal.

G. Linn Roth and Jean Martinelli of Madison are friends of the campus who created a major charitable remainder unitrust to establish the Roth-Martinelli Endowed Undergraduate Scholarship, targeted to undergraduates with financial need. The trust has been funded with a donation of the $3 million Roth building that formerly housed Roth’s electronics company, Locus, Inc.

"We had thought about this for a long time and had actually put the gift in our will," says Roth, who was the owner of the Fitchburg company that specialized in radio frequency products for navigation, precise time/frequency and industrial applications. "I recently closed down my business, and since we had planned this anyway, we decided to start now."

"This is a valuable and timely gift to the university, one that directly supports our goal of expanding access for talented prospective students who may face financial challenges," says Chancellor John D. Wiley. "I applaud Linn and Jean for their generosity and forward thinking in helping us support the next generation of UW–Madison students."

Originally a consultant at Locus, Roth quickly became president and owner and worked long hours to make the company successful. During that period, he became extremely active in domestic and international radio-navigation technical and policy issues. He published widely in journals and professional publications as diverse as GPS World, Navigation, Avionics and the German Journal of Navigation, and gave numerous presentations and talks at international and domestic conferences, which he often helped organize.

Roth was elected president of the International Loran Association (ILA) four times, served as chairman of its Congressional Relations Committee for more than a decade, and was awarded the ILA’s highest honor, the Medal of Merit. He also was made a Fellow of the Royal Institute of Navigation and is one of a handful of Americans to receive this honor, which was presented by Prince Philip in London in 2003.

Linn’s wife, Jean Martinelli, after two years at Madison East High School and one at Gompers Middle School, was an English teacher at West High School for 29 years. Her love of children played a part in directing the money to undergraduates who might not otherwise be able to afford college. "I especially enjoyed working with motivated kids, and I saw a lot of them who could have used help in paying for further education," she says. "Now, we can be that help."

Roth agreed. "Philosophically, we believe it’s important to make students’ aspirations viable and achievable," he says. "Neither one of us came from an affluent background. With hard work and good fortune, we’re in a position to give deserving individuals the chance to succeed. UW is a terrific school, and knowing that we’ll be able to participate in the selection of the scholarship students helped us make up our minds to start now.

"Overall, we think funding such scholarships is also a good thing to do for Madison, for Wisconsin, and for the country. Scholarships for higher education help strengthen society as a whole," he says. "If we can play some part in doing that, we will be happy."

Both graduated from public universities. Martinelli earned her bachelor’s degree from UW-Eau Claire and attended UW–Madison during the summers. Roth received his undergraduate degree from the University of California-Berkeley, did graduate work at UC-San Francisco and was a post-doctoral fellow in the former department of neurophysiology in the UW Medical School.

Martinelli fondly recalled her life growing up in the Madison neighborhood of Westmoreland in the ’50s and ’60s. "We had five kids in my family, but my parents could afford to send all of my siblings and me to college – Wisconsin public schools, that is. It was a priority for them, so I am sure that they sacrificed. But I often think about how different my life would have been if I hadn’t been able to get my English education degree, and I want others to have the opportunities I had."