Tobyann Auerbach Boonin, 84, of Center City, an advocate for parents and children and a former member of the Philadelphia Board of Education, died of complications from a stroke Friday, June 10, at Penn Hospice at Rittenhouse.
In 1969, Mrs. Boonin, who had been president of the Home and School Association at Ellwood School in East Oak Lane and served on the Philadelphia Home and School Council, was appointed to the board by Mayor James H.J. Tate.
For the next 12 years, she worked to balance budgets and integrate schools, led the movement to mainstream children with disabilities in public schools, and helped initiate programs to allow pregnant students to remain in school. She also helped add the Holocaust and African American studies to the public school curriculum. A supporter of the concept of magnet schools, she was involved with the establishment of the School of Creative and Performing Arts.
In 1970, '71, '72, '74, '75, and '79, she introduced resolutions to abolish corporal punishment. Each measure was defeated.
In 1984, after she had left the board, it adopted a policy prohibiting the use of corporal punishment in an 8-0 vote. When she learned of the decision, she told the Philadelphia Daily News: "At last discipline will be taken out of the era of Charles Dickens. I don't believe we can get anywhere using a rod on a child. Corporal punishment is indeed a form of child abuse."
At the time, she was president of the Philadelphia chapter of the National Committee for the Prevention of Child Abuse.
From 1982 to 1988, Mrs. Boonin was a member of the Philadelphia Civil Service Commission. In 1984, the commission approved a parental-leave policy that granted a child's biological father - and either parent of an adopted child - the same right to time off without pay that the city granted female employees who give birth. "I prefer to call it a nurturing policy," she told the Daily News.
After leaving the commission, she was a labor arbitrator until her 70s, her son David said.
Mrs. Boonin chaired or served on numerous boards, including the Anti-Defamation League, the Jewish Community Relations Council, and the United Way. She was past president of the Oak Lane Civic Association and the Philadelphian Owners Association. A Democrat, she campaigned without success for a City Council at-large seat in 1979.
For her lifetime of service, she was awarded a Philadelphia Bowl, the highest honor for contributions to the city, by Mayor W. Wilson Goode.
Mrs. Boonin lived in Camden until she was 9, when her parents died within months of each other. She and her sister, Etta, and brother, Isaac, were then cared for by an aunt and uncle in Center City.
After graduating from Philadelphia High School for Girls, she attended Temple University and studied acting at Neighborhood Playhouse in New York.
In 1948, she married Lawrence Boonin, a lawyer who was her brother's best friend.
When her children were young, she was involved with the Ellwood Home and School Association and performed in amateur theater productions. After recovering from serious injuries in an automobile accident, she decided to commit more of her time to education advocacy, her son said.
In 1976, she earned a master's degree in education at Antioch University in Philadelphia, and she later taught there.
Mrs. Boonin continued to love the theater and was also a patron of the Philadelphia Orchestra and the Opera Company of Philadelphia.
In addition to her son, she is survived by sons Nicholas and Robert and five grandchildren. Her husband died in 2001.
A memorial service will be at 1 p.m. Sunday, June 12, in the social room of the Philadelphian, 2401 Pennsylvania Ave. Burial will be in Roosevelt Cemetery, Trevose.
Donations may be made to Mishkan Shalom, 4101 Freeland Ave., Philadelphia 19128.