Honorary doctorate from BSU for human rights champion Shuler

Marylin Shuler, who received her master of public administration from Boise State in 1978 and led the Idaho Human Rights Commission from 1978 to 1998, will receive an honorary doctorate in the May 17 spring commencement ceremony.

Shuler, 74, was hailed by BSU President Bob Kustra. “Her indefatigable spirit and selfless service to the community in areas as diverse as public education and civic affairs are an inspiration to all of us here at the university and beyond,” Kustra said in a news release. ” She truly exemplifies the very best of our Boise State alumni.”

Former Gov. Cecil Andrus, under whom Shuler worked from 1987-1994, called her “the steady, reasonable influence at the moral center of Idaho.”

“She has done more with the resources of a tiny agency and a tiny budget to advance the cause of human rights and individual dignity than anyone ever has in Idaho,” Andrus said in the release. “She has been a persistent guardian of the rights of all members of society.”

The traditional ceremony will begin at 10 a.m. Saturday, May 17, in Taco Bell Arena and will include a processional and recessional, individual recognition of graduates and the hooding of doctoral candidates. No tickets are required.

Born in Oregon, Shuler was diagnosed with polio at age 10. After her family moved to Salt Lake City, she was barred from public school in Utah on the grounds she couldn’t climb the schoolhouse stairs. Last year, she was the first of  first of 120 Treasure Valley residents chosen to record her story for NPR’s StoryCorps.

Since her retirement as executive director of the commission, she has remained a touchstone. In February, she told the Statesman she was distressed by the Legislature’s refusal to hold a hearing on adding the sexual orientation and gender identity to the Idaho Human Rights Act, the law she helped administer.

“How can we not even hold a hearing for people who just want to say we think it’s wrong to discriminate?” Shuler said. “If we don’t have an anti-gay reputation, we certainly should. I sure don’t think we’re seen as gay-friendly. How could we be?”

The Human Rights Act requires anyone seeking legal redress for alleged discrimination in the workplace, housing and public accommodation to first come to the Human Rights Commission to lodge their complaint before going to court. After an investigation, the commission works to negotiate a settlement, often sparing the parties the costs of a lawsuit.

Shuler works as a guardian ad litem for foster children, a Boise River Greenbelt patrol volunteer and a program chair for the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute at Boise State. She also is on the boards of the Boise Commission on Foreign Relations, the Casey Family Program Community Advisory Board and other organizations, and a volunteer lead teacher for the YMCA Kindergarten Project, among other activities, according to the release.

Shuler helped establish public kindergartens in Idaho, encouraged the state to implement some of the strongest laws banning malicious harassment and paramilitary training, helped create the Martin Luther King Jr./Idaho Human Rights Day, helped organize the Ada County Human Rights Task Force and more, said the release.

“Marilyn Shuler is a saint and, I would add, a very busy saint,” YMCA Director Jim Everett said in the release.

Boise State awards honorary doctoral degrees to recognize individuals of outstanding accomplishment in scholarship, creativity, public service, education or contributions to human welfare. Previous recipients include Michael Hoffman, former Gov. Cecil Andrus, Steve Appleton, John Elorriaga, Ralph Peterson, Barbara Morgan, Bethine Church, Velma Morrison and Allen Dykman.

Dan Popkey came to Idaho in 1984 to work as a police reporter. Since 1987, he has covered politics and has reported on 25 sessions of the Legislature. Dan has a bachelor's in political science from Santa Clara University and a master's in journalism from Columbia University. He was a Congressional Fellow of the American Political Science Association and a Journalism Fellow at the University of Michigan. A former page in the U.S. House of Representatives, he graduated Capitol Page High School in 1976. In 2007, he led the Statesman’s coverage of the Sen. Larry Craig sex scandal, which was one of three Pulitzer Prize finalists in breaking news. In 2003, he won the Ted M. Natt First Amendment award from the Pacific Northwest Newspaper Association for coverage of University Place, the University of Idaho’s troubled real estate development in Boise. Dan helped start the community reading project "Big Read." He has two children in college and lives on the Boise Bench with an old gray cat.

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