Magazine Feature / People

Earning a degree from DU was Younkerman’s ‘dream,’ family recalls

Marie Younkerman could have used a few more hours in the day.

“I think her days had 34 hours,” friend and former DU staff member Pat Larsen says. Larsen worked with Younkerman on DU’s Staff Women’s Association and Network (SWAN) for 10 years. “She never missed a meeting, always had positive input and volunteered for everything.”

Younkerman, assistant to the director in the Daniels College of Business statistics department, died July 8. She was 58.

Colleagues hailed Younkerman as an advocate for women’s issues. “She was always very supportive of women, always wanting to help out,” says DU Women’s Coalition chair Meg Steitz.

A longtime member of SWAN, Younkerman was the 2006–07 recipient of the Robin Morgan Award, given to a DU appointed staff woman who goes above and beyond her University responsibilities to promote and enhance the University community.

“I’ll never forget the look on Marie’s face when I announced her name,” Larsen recalls. “It was a combination of ‘Oh my, it’s me!’ and ‘Oh my, I don’t deserve it!’ That was Marie — always wanted to help you and never asked for thanks.”

Instead, Younkerman was grateful for achievement in other respects, including furthering her own education.

Colleagues said it was a primary goal of Younkerman to complete her degree when she joined DU in 1995. She earned a bachelor’s degree in communications at the Women’s College on Aug. 17, 2007 — her 58th birthday. “It was her dream,” says son Scott Younkerman.

Younkerman even battled cancer gracefully, her family and friends recall, not allowing the course of her illness interfere with things that mattered to her — including her faith in God and her family.

“Even while in pain, she wanted to come [to church] because she wanted to receive the Lord and the Eucharist so much,” says Jeffrey Wilborn, her priest at Our Lady of Fatima Catholic Church.

“As Marie’s illness developed we often sat together in my office discussing the ups and downs of her journey, and nobody could have failed to have been impressed by her quiet determination and resilient spirits,” says Anthony Hayter, chair and professor in the statistics department.

“It was clear that Marie’s family — particularly her grandchildren — were always uppermost in her mind,” Hayter says.

At a July 15 service, Scott Younkerman told mourners his mother was a dedicated mom from the start, never missing her children’s football and softball games and dance recitals. Even Younkerman’s disciplinary methods made an impact on them growing up.

Once, when he and his siblings got in a fight, “she made us stay on the couch holding each other’s hands for 10 minutes,” Scott recalled. “We didn’t fight after that.”

“Being a grandmother was among her most important aspirations,” he said, adding that when the first granddaughter arrived Younkerman was “overjoyed.” Spending time with her family and friends kept up her strength.

In addition to Scott, Younkerman is survived by her husband of 37 years, John; son Brian and daughter Michelle; four grandchildren; three brothers and two sisters.

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