To Marni, With Love
Marni lost her battle with brain cancer on Sunday, Sept. 23, 2007. When Marni retired because of terminal illness, we received many messages of love and support from staff, alumni and friends of PIC.
In 2007, we lost Marni Sweet, PIC’s former Executive Director, to terminal illness. Marni was so devoted to PIC- and to Early Childhood Education- that the mere mention of our center’s name in the Pennslyvavia ECE community prompted people to say, “Oh, Marni! How is she?” Once she received her diagnosis, Marni simply said, “Well, brain cancer must be good for something,” and launched the funding campaign for PIC’s expansion. The Sweet buliding, named for Marni, is the result. Today, at the Parent Infant Center, when you hear the gleeful squeals of active children, watch teachers soothe fretful tears and feel the warm invitation of the child-centered classrooms, please remember the visionary woman who was so much a part of the community institution you see before you. Thank you, Marni, and thank you, parents, teachers and friends for both continuing and honoring her legacy with your advocacy and care for young children.
I was at PIC from 1986-1990, and for a couple years in the mid 90's for afterschool. I remember coming to see Marni in her office. She was so down-to-earth, so friendly. I remember being a bit intimidated at first, because she could be business-like and commanding when she wanted to be. But I felt underlying it was warmth and caring, and that I felt safe under her care.
I wish she can live the rest of her days in comfort, with the same kind of support, caring, and thoughtfulness with which she ran PIC, with which she approached her job and all the people connected with PIC.
Our daughter Allison (Ally) Adams-Alwine was at PIC from spring 1985 to fall of 1991.I remember PIC as a wonderful, welcoming and stable environment at a time in my life when it was much-needed. Our lives seemed chaotic and stressful - two young faculty parents, both pre-tenure and working too hard, never sleeping enough. We relied often on Marni's wisdom when things were difficult - as well as on the collective wisdom of the wonderful teachers.
I simply can't say enough about how important those years were to us and to Ally; she got a great start at PIC. She just graduated magna cum laude from Vanderbilt University with a degree in political science, and is starting a graduate program in conflict resolution at Georgetown. Many thanks to Marni, and to all the others who were at PIC back then.
I would like to add something about Marni's contributions to the broader picture of child care in the University City area. I once attended a meeting with Marni and [she] was the one who came in with real information - how many day care centers there are in the area served by the University (complete with map showing locations and numbers), how many children, how many kids on waiting lists, how many more spaces we need - and she also came with concrete suggestions about improving access. I will be continuing our efforts to improve access to child care, and Marni will be greatly missed.
I am amazed at Marni's ability to remember names when she has so many names and faces to deal with: not only did Marni instantly commit each of my children's names to memory, and consistently refer to them by name every time she saw them, but she also knew my name after only meeting me once,and knew that I was Max and Ben's mom even on the rare occasion that I was walking around PIC without Max or Ben nearby. This is one of the many ways in which Marni made PIC such a wonderful, personal and inviting place.
Marni and PIC helped raise four of our children. They were Fireflies, Sunshines, Wild Things, Peanuts, after-schoolers and two of them even returned to volunteer for a summer as young teens. They formed long-term friendships and lasting memories -- like playing in the motor room, walking to the button and hiding in the big tires.
Marni helped shepherd us into parenthood. She was always available to listen and often helped us gain perspective. She provided a framework for child development and helped us temper our expectations. Her involvement with child care beyond PIC introduced children to grass roots involvement, marching on Washington and encouraged parental involvement in national and local child care policy. Marni fostered an atmosphere where parents could come together to discuss issues such as diversity, class, race and education and how these affect families. Marni's unwavering commitment to PIC as a parent cooperative was as wise as it was necessary to PIC's strength. Encouraging parents to make more than a financial commitment strengthened the community in which we raised our children.
For most of us, PIC was a part of our family and identity. Marni once said, "I can't help that mothers cry when they first leave their children at day care, but I can promise that while here, they are loved, unconditionally." Really, who could ask for more than that?
I was associated with PIC from 1984-1990. My family was never at PIC; PIC was more my family. I started at PIC while I was a student at Temple University in the Early Childhood Education program. Marni was invited to speak in Dr. Evangeline Ward's class and, along with my classmates, I had to write a paper about her presentation. At the close of her talk Marni said she would welcome visitors. I had to arrange a practicum for another one of my classes and arranged it at PIC.
Well, this was the start of just a wonderful experience for me. After I graduated in 1986, Marni hired me as an assistant teacher. I was so thankful for this because I wanted my first job to be something I would like and I knew PIC would be perfect. I'm not sure if Marni knew this but I had turned down a job teaching in New Jersey for a salary that was quite a bit higher... there was no choice though, I just wanted to be in the place that Marni helped to build.
What do I think of when I think of Marni? She was definitely a mentor to me, but more than anything, I think of Marni as a great and special friend.
Since Katie, Tim and Jonathan Forkey all were involved at PIC from 2001-2003 our family has grown, with Daniel arriving in 2004 and a new little one due in December. The big kids are in school now, but child care remains an issue for our family, and PIC and your programs have been our gold standard as we search out placements in Massachusetts now. From the accommodations made to help our kids adjust to day care, to the support of the staff and parents, to the work you and I were involved with at Philadelphia Citizens for Children and Youth, your touch turned the challenging work of day care into a joyful growing experience for all of us.
Thank you for all your attention and devotion - to us, one family among many; to your tiny charges, who grew wise and well at PIC; to your teachers, who were obviously nurtured and cherished for all they brought to PIC; and to the Philadelphia community, who has had a child advocate of the highest order.
I would have to say that my best Marni memories would be the annual Halloween Parade. She would stand in the middle of the big circle with her same costume every year, a clown, and lead us in songs. I also remember her trying to get me to wear that costume one year!
I literally grew up at PIC. My mother, Linda, use to work there in the early eighties and my sister attended when she was 2. I came with my mom on many occasions. I began working there in 1990 and left in 2001. So PIC and Marni make up 26 years of my life. Although I am no longer there, it is still my home and a huge stepping stone in my life!!