University of Delaware
Betty Paulanka, former dean of the College of Health Sciences, speaks at the dedication of the garden dedicated to the memory of the late Muriel Gilman.

Garden honors giver

Site pays tribute to UD supporter Muriel Gilman


1:34 p.m., Oct. 20, 2011--On Tuesday, Oct. 18, more than 50 people gathered in front of McDowell Hall on the University of Delaware campus to remember Muriel Gilman—the woman that Vice President Joe Biden called “the First Lady of Delaware” and Gov. Jack Markell referred to as a “community treasure.”

Gilman, who died on Feb. 24, 2011, was also a long-time friend of the University, especially the nursing program. To honor her contributions, a small garden anchored by a bench was recently planted in her honor.

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In welcoming attendees at the dedication, Kathleen Matt, dean of the College of Health Sciences, said, “Muriel Gilman was a tireless community activist who got involved in a wide range of causes from housing to children’s welfare to public health. This little garden isn’t nearly big enough to do justice to all of the wonderful things she did—for that, we’d need a plot of land as big as the state itself.”

After “retiring” from a 23-year career with United Way of Delaware in 1988, Gilman became a consultant to UD, where she led a campaign that raised more than a million dollars to establish an endowment fund for nursing student scholarships.

Former dean Betty Paulanka also shared memories of Gilman at the dedication, calling her a “personal cheerleader.” 

“Muriel had a smile that lit up the world and a determination that made you believe nothing is impossible,” Paulanka said. “She was the only person I knew who could tell you ‘no’ and make you smile at the same time. She could also get others to say ‘yes’ when they had been telling you ‘no’ for weeks beforehand.” 

Paulanka finished her tribute saying, “It’s an honor to be here today to dedicate this garden to her memory as a thank you for her dedication and trust in us to be Delaware’s leader in health education, research, and community outreach. This garden will continually stand to remind us of Muriel and promote a ‘Yes, we can attitude’ to serve as Delaware’s leader for years to come.”

About Muriel Gilman

During her lifetime, Muriel Gilman received dozens of awards, including most recently the Jefferson Award for Public Service and the James H. Gilliam, Jr. Humanitarian Award. In 1988, then-Gov. Mike Castle proclaimed December 1 as Muriel E. Gilman Day in the state and urged all Delawareans to “recognize the contributions Muriel has made to the community.”

Gilman is survived by her son Peter (Susan) Gilman, her daughter Martha (Greg) Smith, and her six grandsons.

Contributions in her memory can be made to the Muriel E. Gilman Scholarship for Returning Students in Nursing. Checks should be mailed to University of Delaware, 83 E. Main St., 3rd Floor, Newark, DE, 19716.

Article by Diane Kukich

Photos by Kathy F. Atkinson

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