Education Is Essential: Remembering Dr. Mary Stauffer

Lukas Luna, Co-Copy Editor

On Feb. 12, 2021, the city of Downey lost a true titan as Dr. Mary Stauffer passed away. The 103-year-old was revered throughout the community for her generous grants that helped build the Downey Unified School District into what it is today. In the wake of her death, students and teachers share how they were touched by the doctor’s inspiration and generosity.  


Despite the various projects that Dr. Stauffer funded, she was known to display equal excitement and investment in every single one. Even something like the Downey high school art department, of which instructor Mrs. Puente is part, seem insignificant next to her larger projects, the good doctor still found time to come and see what her generosity had wrought. 


I can still recall the last time that I saw her in person. It was back in November 2019 when her daughter brought her to Downey High” Puente said,  “…she was so present [and] in the moment and even took the time out of her busy schedule to walk with us to the J- hall to see the latest work that our students had created.  You could really see how much she truly cared about the work that was being done.”   

Much of the late Doctor’s work was done through collaboration between her own eponymous foundation and the Downey Unified School District. Through these means, she provided larger programs and individual students with the necessary funding to reach their full potential, be it through grants or scholarships. Luckily, District head Dr. John Garcia is working with her foundation to ensure such services to the community continue. 


“We are very fortunate that Dr. Stauffer’s family plans to continue her legacy through the Mary R. Stauffer Foundation and the continuous support of our Downey Unified programs and Stauffer Scholar students into the future” Garcia said, “In addition to having Mary R. Stauffer Middle School bearing her name, her ideals and legacy will continue long into the future for new generations of students” 


Though her large scale philanthropy cannot be overlooked, it is important to remember that Dr. Mary Stauffer’s ultimate investment was in students. Every grant and generous donation was merely a means to give students to fall in love with the power of education and become better for it. The words of senior Natalie Cuz, member of the Stauffer funded Downey High engineering department, prove that her investment paid off. 


“She has been able to help provide opportunities to hundreds, if not thousands of students just like me. Opportunities that have been formative in finding our passions and livelihoods, her impact will not be forgotten” Cruz said. “As for me, I only hope to be able to give back and support my community with the same spirit she did. I have no doubt in my mind that all Downey students feel the same way.”  

Her foundation is planning a community celebration of her life for sometime near her birthday in August.