The crew of the starship Enterprise in "Star Trek" learned this well. And so, too, did Mayor Nutter and former Mayors Ed Rendell and Wilson Goode Sr. - at least when it came to Marciene Mattleman.

When Mattleman, the feisty and unrelenting advocate for Philadelphia's children, called the Mayor's Office to ask for the city's assistance with one of her many new educational ideas, some of which came to her in the middle of the night, resistance was, well, "impossible."

"The secret of her success is . . . she's impossible," Rendell blurted, adding that he quickly came to realize as mayor, "I shouldn't bother saying no to Marciene because I eventually will say yes. She never stops and she never will."

Rendell's playful yet totally earnest comments came yesterday during a tribute in celebration of Mattleman's enduring thumbprint on generations of young people across the city.

Even as Mattleman stepped down as board chair of After School Activities Partnerships, which she founded in 2002, some who attended the tribute inside City Hall expressed doubts about her so-called plans to "retire."

"I actually just don't believe it," Nutter teased her. "You may call it that, but no one in this room is fooled."

During the past 50 years, Mattleman created literacy programs and after-school clubs, including debate, drama, Scrabble and chess, that thrive today. Only Mattleman, Nutter noted, could convince him to try his hand at chess.

"I lost every match," Nutter said. He recalled how a 12-year-old boy walked up to him and immediately said, "I beat you in chess last week."

"Good to see you, too," Nutter said he responded.

Mattleman, 85, who received two standing ovations from the crowd during the hourlong tribute, had this to say about Nutter's chess skills: "A fourth-grade girl said to me, 'I tried to let him win but it just didn't work!' "

Goode, who had tapped Mattleman to create a literacy program during his administration more than three decades ago, described her as "one of the most unselfish, dedicated public servants that I've known."

"You are indeed a treasure to this city," said Goode, noting that he appreciated the importance of literacy at an early age because his own father never learned to read or write.

Mattleman founded not only ASAP, a nonprofit aimed at facilitating after-school programs that help keep kids safe, but four other nonprofits: the Mayor's Commission on Literacy under Goode, Philadelphia Reads under Rendell, Youth Education for Tomorrow and Philadelphia Futures. Then-President Bill Clinton praised Philadelphia Futures, a college-oriented mentoring program, which has been replicated in other cities.

The city leaders who took to the podium yesterday described Mattleman as an "angel," a "sheer force," a woman for whom "the idea of 'business hours' is a quaint expression" and whose motto is, "Get on the phone and start making some calls."

But her son, Jon Mattleman, 58, perhaps summed her up best, "Mom is crazy and wonderful and a doer."

On Twitter: @wendyruderman