‘She was the closest thing I knew to a saint’

Marilyn Shuler was remembered as powerful yet humble. And giving yet frugal.

“She was the closest thing I knew to a saint — and she was a busy saint at that,” said Jim Everett, Shuler’s long-time friend who worked with her on multiple child advocacy projects over the past several decades.

Shuler was honored posthumously by Idaho Voices for Children during a Friday luncheon at Boise State University. Shuler was named the recipient of the 2017 Children’s Champion award, previously given to Everett, the late Gov. Cecil Andrus, Olympic champion Kristin Armstrong and astronaut Barbara Morgan.

“I never saw her back down, and I never saw her get angry,” said Everett.

Shuler spent her career advocating and caring for children and vulnerable adults. She and her husband, John, were foster parents before they had their own two children. During this time, she grew aware that many children lacked access to early education, so she started her own kindergarten for low-income kids. Shuler and Andrus led the lobbying efforts for publicly funded kindergarten in Idaho.

“This was one of Marilyn’s proudest achievements,” said Lauren Necochea, director of Idaho Voices for Children.

Boise Mayor Dave Bieter presented the Children’s Champion award to Marilyn Shuler’s grandchildren during a Friday luncheon sponsored by Idaho Voices for Children.

Shuler served as a trustee for Boise Public Schools and directed the Idaho Commission on Human Rights for 20 years.

“She was quite a bit more than a grandma,” said her grandson, Johnny, who spoke during Friday’s tribute. He asked the crowd to continue her legacy to support children and protect human rights.

Shuler knew before she died in February that she would be the 2017 recipient of the Children’s Champion award. She told Necochea to choose someone else to ensure that Idaho Voices for Children could “make a lot of money.”

Necochea told Shuler that she was the “one and only” choice and the best at fundraising.

A record crowd of more than 400 supporters, many of whom filled out donation cards in her memory, attended the luncheon. The crowd included mayors, lawmakers, school board members, educators, representatives of Boise State University, community leaders and State Superintendent Sherri Ybarra.

The hour-long program featured video clips from Shuler’s life, her foster children and her friends. One clip showed Shuler sharing these words at a graduation ceremony: “Watch for traffic. Hold Hands. And stick together.”

Click here to donate to Idaho Voices for Children or the Marilyn Shuler Foster Care Advocacy Fund.

Did you know?

  • Shuler received honorary Doctor of Humane Letters degrees from the University of Idaho in 2000 and Boise State University in 2014.
  • Her husband, John, was a social worker who became the state coordinator for youth rehabilitation for the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare.
  • The Shulers were foster parents to numerous “hard to place” teenagers.
  • She volunteered as a guardian ad litem for abused and neglected children under the Fourth Judicial Court’s jurisdiction.
  • She established the John D. Shuler Memorial Fund within the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare to help children in foster care.
  • She directed the YMCA and part of the YWCA non-tuition kindergarten program for low-income children.
  • She co-foundeed the Idaho Anne Frank Human Rights Memorial, the only Anne Frank memorial in the United States.
  • As a childhood polio survivor, she advocated for childhood vaccinations.
  • She was active in a variety of community organizations, including the Osher Institute for Lifelong Learning at BSU, the City Club of Boise, the Ada County Human Rights Task Force, the Idaho Board of Medicine, the Boise Police Department’s Greenbelt Patrol, the Junior League of Boise, the Boise Redevelopment Agency, the Boise Committee on Foreign Relations, the Friends Advisory Board of Idaho Public Television, the Idaho Statesman’s Editorial Board, and the Boise Public Schools Education Foundation.
  • In addition to being selected as the 2017 Children’s Champion, Shuler received many awards, including the 1996 “Torch of Liberty” award from the Anti-Defamation League’s Pacific Northwest Region, the 2008 Martin Luther King Jr. Humanitarian Award from the Canyon Area Human Rights Task Force, the St. Luke’s Hospital annual “Light of Philanthropy” award, the “Distinguished Community Service Award” in 1990 from the Boise Area Chamber of Commerce and the 2008 “Heritage Hall of Fame” designation from the Treasure Valley branch of the NAACP.
Jennifer Swindell

Jennifer Swindell

Managing editor and CEO Jennifer Swindell founded Idaho Education News in 2013. She has led the online news platform as it has grown in readership and engagement every year, reaching over two million pageviews a year. Jennifer has more than 35 years of experience in Idaho journalism. She also has served as a public information officer for Idaho schools and as a communication director at Boise State University. She can be reached at [email protected].

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