Marilyn Whisler

Honored by:Julie Greiner
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Marilyn Whisler was a dedicated teacher whose goal to help female students move into science careers was nationally recognized and whose political advocacy was contagious.

She was awarded a National Science Foundation grant to recruit and retain female students in science professions.

Whisler served as president of the Metro Orlando Women's Political Caucus and the Florida Women's Political Caucus.

In 2000, the Women's Resource Center honored her with its Summit Award, which recognizes women who made a significant contribution to the community in a variety of ways, particularly as volunteers.

"I was not formally a student of hers, but I think everybody she met was a student of hers in some way," said Martha Haynie, Orange County comptroller. "We met through the women's political caucus. She really wanted to get more women involved in the political process."

Whisler, a Winter Park resident, died Sunday from complications of diabetes. She was 63.

"She encouraged other people to recognize their potential as leaders," Haynie said. "She was very interested in the integrity of the political process. She wanted people with solid ideas to be involved. She didn't see it as glamour; she saw it as a service."

Appointed to the faculty of Florida Technological University, now the University of Central Florida, in 1971, Whisler was the first female professor in the political-science department and only the second female faculty member in the College of Social Science at the university, said her husband of 38 years, Bruce Whisler, a retired music-history professor at UCF.

"She grew up on a farm in Iowa, and whenever there was a big family event, all the women would wind up in the kitchen talking and the men would be in the living room talking politics," Bruce said. "Marilyn as a child would be with the men. That's where she learned to form her opinions and ideas."

Born in Fort Dodge, Iowa, Whisler received her bachelor's degree at North Park University in Chicago, her master's at American University in Washington, D.C., and her doctorate at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

She then taught at the State University of New York at Brockport and the University of Dayton before moving to Central Florida.

Whisler also was awarded an American Association of University Women public-service grant for the Leadership Development Institute, and she conducted leadership skill-training sessions for the Orlando-Winter Park branch of the AAUW. She was active in the Florida Political Science Association and taught courses in women and politics.

Whisler eventually became a tenured associate professor at UCF before retiring in 1983 at 40 because of her diabetes.

Doctors treating her eye problems at the University of Miami Medical School told her that she probably could expect to live no more than five more years, if she followed the "normal progress" of the disease, her husband said. But beating the odds became an ongoing theme for her as well as educating others about the disease that afflicted her.

"She had a very brittle case of diabetes and taught her last year in a wheelchair," her husband said. "But she continued to be involved in politics even after she retired."

Whisler remained active in her profession and advised numerous first-time female candidates for public office, both Democrats and Republicans, her husband said.

"She was one of the strongest, most determined individuals I've ever known. She absolutely was determined to be a useful human being as long as she could," Haynie said. "She had a brilliant political mind. I would not have ever attempted to dream or do what I did politically if it wasn't for Marilyn."

Survivors also include her mother, Geneva Wenell of Albert City, Iowa; brothers Gary Wenell of Sioux City and Dale Wenell of Albert City, Iowa; and sister Delores Gardner of Salt Lake City, Utah.

 Obituary obtained: (No longer available.)

Submitted on 12/20/11