DOWNEY – Dr. Mary Stauffer, who has donated millions of dollars in the form of scholarships and grants to Downey students, putting an innumerable number of kids on a path to higher education, received the highest form of gratitude from the Downey Unified School District this week.
On Wednesday, West Middle School was rededicated as Dr. Mary R. Stauffer Middle School. The name change technically went into effect July 1, but with the dedication ceremony, “now it’s really official,” said DUSD superintendent Dr. John Garcia.
“Renaming a school can sometimes be a bit controversial,” admitted school board president Willie Gutierrez. “But this one was a no-brainer.”
A standing-room only crowd of more than 250 people packed the school’s cafeteria to witness the dedication, including teachers, district staff, and former students who have benefited from Stauffer’s generosity.
At the former West Middle School alone Stauffer is credited with helping launch a new broadcasting class by financing the purchase of audio/video equipment. She also helped modernize the library with new equipment and materials, and purchased laptops for student use.
“Dr. Stauffer is a celebrity when she walks on campus,” said principal Alyda Mir. “It is an honor and a privilege to have her work associated with our school.”
Julie Hofstra, a 2009 graduate of Downey High School, said she received five scholarships from Stauffer, starting when she was in elementary school.
The scholarships helped her graduate with two AA degrees from Cerritos College debt-free. Hofstra went on to earn a bachelor’s degree at Cal State Fullerton and today is studying for her Ph.D. from the California Institute of Technology, with hopes of becoming a college professor.
“The scholarships didn’t just pay for my academics,” Hofstra said, choking back tears. “It gave me the confidence that there are people out there like Dr. Stauffer who believe in my abilities.”
Stauffer gives hundreds of thousands of dollars annually through grants, scholarships and outright donations. Among her contributions:
•$200,000 annually towards community college grants for graduating high school seniors
•$10,000 per year towards 4.0 GPA awards for high school juniors
•$30,000 annually to high school athletes with 3.5 GPAs or higher
•$23,000 per year to send DUSD fifth graders to the Columbia Memorial Space Center
•and $35,000 annually to send all DUSD third, fourth and fifth grade students to the Gene Autry Museum.
“In addition, Dr. Stauffer has been a huge supporter of our Project Lead the Way initiative, having donated approximately $400,000,” said Gutierrez. “Dr. Stauffer has continued her support of Project Lead the Way courses to an even greater level this year, supporting our Elementary Launch Program and Middle School Gateway to Technology Program.”
Stauffer also gives extensively to local service clubs, charities and community groups.
Mayor Fernando Vasquez called Stauffer “a pioneer, legend and trailblazer.”
“The city is better than when you started delivering babies 40, 50 years ago,” Vasquez told her. “I can’t imagine anyone else more worthy of this honor.”
Stauffer had few words to say at the dedication, but was gracious in her comments.
“I’m overwhelmed with gratitude for this honor,” she said. “This has been a wonderful day for me, and I predict it will be a wonderful future for Stauffer Middle School.”
Online, Stauffer received an outpouring of support and congratulations from residents, former scholarship recipients, and even former patients.
“I have not generally been in favor of the recent re-naming of Downey’s schools. But I do believe that Dr. Stauffer truly deserves this honor,” said Janet Meier. “Bless her, for all she has given, to the students and families of Downey.”
“Dr. Mary Stauffer gave me a scholarship. She is an amazing lady,” wrote Jos Fer. “Thank you Dr. Stauffer for your kindness. You are an amazing individual and deserve all the honor and recognition the city is able to give you and more.”
“Dr. Stauffer delivered me 55 years ago,” said Wendy Norvell Wright. “She is an amazing lady. I went to West Jr. High and am so glad they gave her this honor.”
Published: Sept. 4, 2014 - Volume 13 - Issue 21