I'm so pleased to introduce you to Marion Downs, the astonishing grandmother of my friend Roylin Downs.
Marion was born on January 26, 1914, in New Ulm, Minnesota. She passed away a century later, but not before making a difference in thousands, perhaps millions, of children's lives.
Marion studied English at the University of Minnesota until 1934 but dropped out to marry her sweetheart, George Downs. Together they had three children.
Fast forward a decade and a half. While washing dishes, Marion had an epiphany: "Was this what I was going to do for the rest of my life?" She dried her hands and headed for the nearby University of Denver, which had begun fall enrollment.
Thousands of soldiers with GI Bills packed the auditorium. The lines were endless, so Marion chose the shortest one—Speech and Hearing. It was fate. She loved audiology from the start.
At 38, Marion earned her M.A. in Audiology. At 45, she became the first director of audiology at the CU Denver School of Medicine.
In her 50s, Marion pioneered the first U.S. infant hearing screening program. She then fought for nearly three decades to convince her peers to adopt it. Today, thanks to her, 95% of newborns are screened for hearing loss and get hearing aids as early as six months.
Before Marion, screening was haphazard and children with hearing loss couldn't receive hearing aids until age three. The difference those few years make to a child's speech, comprehension, and quality of life is immeasurable.
In her 90s, Marion wrote her memoir, Shut Up and Live! A 93-Year-Old’s Guide to Living to a Ripe Old Age.
She adopted that mantra after a ski instructor countered her fear of a big run with “Shut up and ski, you know how!” She started skiing in her 50s and was still hitting the slopes in her 90s.
Marion Downs passed away ten months after her 100th birthday gala, which benefited the Marion Downs Hearing Center in Denver. What a legacy!