The Legacy of Marie and Rupert Tarver

The Tarvers

Marie and Rupert Tarver had an immeasurable impact on the City of Poughkeepsie and on Dutchess County as a whole. Here at Marist, the Center for Civic Engagement & Leadership aspires to instill a similar commitment to community and change-making by creating opportunities for students to work closely with nonprofit organizations. Many of these groups benefited directly from the efforts of Mr. and Mrs. Tarver. The Tarvers' legacy reminds us of the power of service. By celebrating their community-focused careersgroundbreaking leadership, and richly deserved awards and accolades, we provide our students with inspiring models of individuals who worked tirelessly for thbenefit of others.

Community-Focused Careers

From the moment they moved to Poughkeepsie in 1956 from Galesburg, Illinois, Mr. and Mrs. Tarver found ways to make a difference in the area. Their initial involvement evolved into long and illustrious careers in public service for each of them. 

Mrs. Tarver, who was the first African-American school teacher in the Galesburg school system, began her career in Poughkeepsie as an English professor at Marist College. She soon left this position to become the first African-American Board of Education President for Poughkeepsie. Shortly thereafter, she became the director of the Poughkeepsie Model Cities Agency, a federal program that assisted cities with urban renewal projects and social services. Mrs. Tarver's achievements in this role eventually led to her embarking upon an over 20-year career as the director of the Office of Social Development in the City of Poughkeepsie.

Mr. Tarver was no less engaged in community work than his wife. Throughout his professional career he led a wide variety of organizations, including the William Smith Community Center; the Neighborhood Service Organization; the Title III Elementary and Secondary Art Project; the Hudson Valley Opportunities and Industrialization Center; the Urban Education Program; and the city’s Board of Assessors. Mr. Tarver successfully fulfilled these professional commitments while also serving for 19 years as a physical education teacher and coach for the Poughkeepsie School District.

Groundbreaking Leadership

Mr. and Mrs. Tarver's community involvement extended well beyond their work lives. Both were actively involved in multiple non-profit organizations, and were a part of the board of directors of several. Mr. Tarver served on the boards of Dutchess County United Way; the Poughkeepsie Area Fund; the Poughkeepsie Voters League; and the Dutchess County Committee for Economic Opportunity. He was also the board president of the Dutchess County Social Workers. For her part, Mrs. Tarver engaged in nonprofit leadership in her roles as a co-chair of the Race Relations Project of the Eleanor Roosevelt Center at Val-Kill; the chairman of the Poughkeepsie Housing Authority; and the founder of the local chapter of the Zeta Phi Beta sorority. Mrs. Tarver also served as a board member of Family Services Inc.; the Children’s Home of Poughkeepsie; Vassar Brothers Hospital; Hudson River Housing; and the United Way.

Awards and Accolades

Both Mr. and Mrs. Tarver were recognized as generous and highly effective contributors to their community. In 1988, Mrs. Tarver received the Dutchess County United Way’s Alexis DeTocqueville Award (pictured above). She received the the Eleanor Roosevelt Val-Kill Medal in 1990, and the Marist College President’s Award in 1992. Mr. Tarver was presented with the 1994 Dutchess County Senior of the Year award by the County Legislature, and the 1996 Spirit of Dutchess County award by United Way. Together the pair received the 1996 Family of the Year award by Family Services Inc., which paid tribute to their shared contributions to community life in the City of Poughkeepsie.