Remembering Marlene Wilson 1931-2019

During National Volunteer Week in 1991, President George H. Bush quoted Marlene, using her basic philosophy about volunteerism as a call to action, “Caring must strengthen into commitment and commitment into action.”

 Marlene Wilson – An Inspirational and Generous Leader in our field

Jackie Norris, former Executive Director of Metro Volunteers (Spark the Change Colorado) writes of her dear friend, mentor and colleague:

We are mourning the passing on November 15 of Marlene Wilson, an amazing woman whom we call the Mother of Volunteer Management.  For those of you not fortunate enough to have known and learned from her, we have lost a giant in our field, who leaves a huge legacy of inspiration, motivation, passion and commitment to the profession of volunteer engagement.

As a young Director of Volunteers, I was fortunate to attend all three levels of her well-known Volunteer Management Workshops at CU-Boulder.  Marlene, after founding and running the Volunteer Center in Boulder for many years, created and ran these workshops for 25 years, and brought together outstanding trainers and consultants in our field and attracted attendees from all over the US and Canada…and even other countries.  For one week, we were treated to best in training and thought leadership.  I will be forever impacted by not only what I learned, but by the interaction with passionate volunteer managers from all over.

But Marlene’s contributions to our field go far beyond the obvious.  She had a generosity of spirit that moved her to support and mentor so many of us as we struggled to establish volunteer management as a profession.  She was always willing to spend time with each of us, and to listen to one of her keynotes was always motivating – no matter what the topic.  The fact that we had this national treasure right here in Boulder, Colorado, was a special benefit for those of us who live here, and she was always willing to make herself available to us.

Marlene published the first book on volunteer management, at a time when no publishing house was willing to take a chance on it – so she self-published it.  It was an immediate winner, and she went on to publish several more books on the topic.  Of course, today there are hundreds of books on various volunteer engagement topics, and you can get anything you want on the internet…but she was the first.

It’s a cliché, but words can never fully express the debt we all owe to Marlene, and the strong feelings of respect and affection we will always feel for her.  It was one of the greatest honors of my career and life to call her mentor and friend.  We will miss her forever.

Services celebrating Marlene’s life will be held Friday, November 22 at Grace Lutheran Church in Boulder, at 1 pm.   All are welcome, and you can leave your own tribute to Marlene through the following link:  https://www.dignitymemorial.com/obituaries/boulder-co/ester-wilson-8931467.

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