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Eye On Boise

Otter bestows 2018 Idaho Medal of Achievement on the late Marilyn Shuler, human rights champion

Former Gov. Phil Batt, left, and Gov. Butch Otter at a ceremony naming the late Idaho human rights champion Marilyn Shuler as the recipient of the 2018 Idaho Medal of Achievement, the state's highest honor for a citizen. (Betsy Z. Russell)
Former Gov. Phil Batt, left, and Gov. Butch Otter at a ceremony naming the late Idaho human rights champion Marilyn Shuler as the recipient of the 2018 Idaho Medal of Achievement, the state's highest honor for a citizen. (Betsy Z. Russell)

Gov. Butch Otter this morning announced that the 2018 Idaho Medal of Achievement, the state’s highest award, is being bestowed upon the late Marilyn Shuler, the longtime chair of the Idaho Human Rights Commission and champion for improving human rights in Idaho. Otter said he delayed the announcement until today intentionally, to announce the honor “on this particular day, a day that our nation sets aside to remember Martin Luther King, and the work, self-sacrifice and dedication of those who have gone above and beyond in the name of human rights.”

Former Idaho Gov. Phil Batt, himself known for significant human rights advances in the state, spoke in honor of Shuler. “There are many folks in Idaho who have put a lot of effort, money and time into improving and protecting human rights in our state,” he said. “However there has been nobody who has approached their desired results in such an effective fashion as Marilyn Shuler. She has been undoubtedly our all-time champion and spokesperson in pointing out our human rights deficiencies,” and pointing the way for the state to improve. “There is no one ... who has accomplished so much.”

Benjamin Earwicker, the current director of the Idaho Human Rights Commission, said, “Marilyn was not a revolutionary or a radical. She studied political systems and communications, and she learned to work within the system to effect change. … She had a tenacious appetite for justice and for building community, not in a divisive way, but in a way that brought people together.”

Shuler’s award was accepted for her by her son, Tom Shuler, a West Point graduate and colonel in the Idaho Air National Guard who just returned from a deployment. “My mother was a person who did not seek these kinds of awards, and I know she’d be very embarrassed, very humble,” he said to smiles. “I know that she would be squirming up here, wishing someone else was achieving this honor. I have a house full of her honors.”

He said, “As her son, my brother and I could not have been luckier. … I know she loved this state.” The award – including a medal minted from Idaho silver – “means a lot to us, and I know it would mean a lot to her.”



Betsy Z. Russell
Betsy Z. Russell joined The Spokesman-Review in 1991. She currently is a reporter in the Boise Bureau covering Idaho state government and politics, and other news from Idaho's state capital.

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