By Debra Stenner
My husband, Keith, and I first met Marna and Steve Tulin when we stumbled into their back yard out hiking near our house. It was an interesting first encounter, a prelude for many to come. They were very hospitable and invited us in for a lovely visit and tour of their side-passion, Champlin Hill Antiques. In that very first visit Marna told us about her work with Howard Center and when she discovered I worked in Health Care Information Technology she immediately suggested I learn more about the organization and its board. Little did I know then that I would soon join the Howard Center Board of Trustees and eventually serve as board president.
We had many occasions to connect with Marna and Steve since that initial afternoon. Each time we learned more about their family histories and about their commitment and dedication to social service both individually, and as a team.
Marna and Steve both had a passion for children and families.
Marna’s service to Howard Center began in 1997, when she joined the Howard Center Board of Trustees and continued to serve for nearly two decades, stepping off in 2015 and then serving as an honorary board member until her death last month. During her board tenure she held leadership positions as board secretary and as committee chair of the Family Advisory and Development Committees. She also served on the search committee that hired Bob Bick as CEO.
In her early years on the board, she became involved with the Family Advisory Council and as she told the story, it was a good place to meet parents and to hear about the needs of families as they worked to ensure their sons and daughters received the best possible support to help them grow, develop, and be successful. It was from this vantage point that Marna encouraged Howard Center to develop support in the schools to make certain that children with behavioral and emotional needs would have the same opportunities to succeed. Today Howard Center has a clinician in nearly every school in Chittenden County.
As a psychologist, with a Master’s Degree in Clinical Social Work and a Doctoral Degree in Psychology, Marna was a natural fit for Howard Center and always said the variety of programs and needs are what kept her engaged for so many years. We were so lucky when Marna joined the board because she brought her best friend and husband Steve. They became a dynamic duo bringing their passion for children and families, their understanding of the human condition, and their wish for Howard Center to have the greatest impact in service to our community. They were brilliant fundraisers who understood the importance of relationships and campaigned for agency events and “friendraisers” to make our work more visible to the community. Steve served on the boards of several foundations and helped to make hundreds of thousands of dollars in awards possible from many funders, like the Viola W. Bernard Foundation and the Marion E. Kenworthy-Sarah H. Swift Foundation for over two decades.
Together, Marna and Steve were a unified consistent voice for Howard Center, whether advocating with legislators, among friends, with their professional peers, or out in the community. They had no shortage of anecdotes that illustrate just how great an impact the agency has on the people it serves. They also hosted the first of many staff appreciation events at their home in N. Ferrisburgh. These events rotated at various board members’ homes until the events became too large to be accommodated in board members’ homes. In all the conversations with Marna about the organization, she always made mention of the incredible work and commitment of the staff.
In 2015, we introduced our community education series, which is open to the public and provides free educational sessions on topics relevant to the work of Howard Center. The community education series has proven to be a wonderful addition to our outreach efforts, facilitating partnerships, providing access to information, and resulting in rich conversations and learning for the public. The series has helped us to be more visible in the community and “in the news”, just like Marna and Steve always encouraged. It also provides the link to education and learning that was so important to them.
To honor Marna and Steve for all they have done to help our community, we named our spring series The Marna and Stephen Wise Tulin Spring Community Education Series.
Marna and Steve were the epitome of what it means to be a volunteer and contribute to your community. They collectively volunteered thousands of hours over twenty years to Howard Center. Their tireless advocacy, passion, and service have been extraordinary, and we have been so lucky to be the beneficiary of their commitment, good will, and philanthropy.
I know Keith and I are very glad we stumbled into their lives.
Marna Tulin died on April 21, 2022, and Steve Tulin died on May 15, 2022; they were married for 63 years.
Debra Stenner served on the Howard Center Board of Trustees with Marna Tulin and was a neighbor of Marna and Steve. She lives in Ferrisburgh.