Marilyn M. Carien

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MIDDLETON–Marilyn Mullin Carien, 78, passed away peacefully at home on March 25, 2023. The daughter of George and Peggy Mullin, Marilyn was born in Bridgeport, CN.

Marilyn was a much-loved instructor at Madison Area Technical College (also known as Madison College) and a life-long musician who lived in Madison and the Middleton area for about 55 years.

After living in Connecticut for many years, Marilyn and her family moved to Kentucky, and later to Schenectady, NY, where Marilyn graduated from Niskayuna High School in 1962. She graduated from Cornell University in 1966, and she and her former husband, John Carien, moved to Madison in 1967. She received a Ph.D. in Educational Administration from the University of Wisconsin-Madison in 1983.

Growing up in a musical family, Marilyn learned to play the piano as a child and later a variety of musical instruments, including guitar, recorder, mandolin, accordion, and bass. She didn't need sheet music and could play by ear any song that was requested, changing the key at the drop of a hat if it was too high or too low for others.

Marilyn taught English, writing, and film at MATC for 35 years, encouraging her students to enjoy literature and become better communicators. In Northern Wisconsin with a group of her MATC students, she taught a "Literature in the Wild" class, inspiring them to observe and appreciate the natural world around them.

Marilyn had many friends, and she led an active life which included playing soccer, skiing, kayaking, a marathon, driving a motorcycle, and broom hockey in the winter. She sang in the First Unitarian Society choir, practiced meditation, and played with several bands. And she always looked forward to gathering with her neighborhood book group to discuss the latest book they were reading. She was an avid listener of Wisconsin Public Radio.

Marilyn loved to travel. She and her partner, Jim, explored numerous countries in Asia, South America, and Europe, as well as many national parks in the US. She also traveled in Africa and Australia and taught English in Japan for two years.

She was one of a group of 4-5 women–"Wild Women"–who, for 25 years, adventured beyond Madison for canoeing in the Summer (Boundary Waters) and cross-country skiing in the Winter (Northern Wisconsin). Her laughter, recognized by anyone who knew her, echoed across the water and the trails.

Marilyn brought joy to all those who knew her. Her enthusiasm for life and her positive attitude were contagious. Her glass was always either "full" or "half full" (never half empty). She was an engaging conversationalist, making others the focus of her attention. She always asked, "What is going on in your life?" and she cared and was truly interested in the answer. Her questions were thoughtful and penetrating and caused one to think about their own life. All who knew and loved Marilyn will miss her very much.

Marilyn is survived by her partner of 40 years, Jim Knutson; son, David Mullin of Tokyo, Japan; sister, Carol Mullin of Hayesville, NC; and many cousins and friends who loved her. She was preceded in death by her brother, Sean Mullin; and her parents, George and Peggy Mullin.

A memorial service and celebration of life will be held at Holy Wisdom Monastery, 4200 County Road M, Middleton, at 1 p.m. on June 7, 2023.

On, June 6, at 7 p.m., several of the bands Marilyn played in will be performing in her memory at Holy Wisdom Monastery.

In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to Wisconsin Public Radio, UW Carbone Cancer Center, or Agrace HospiceCare (Fitchburg)

Online condolences may be made at

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