Mary Turner loves to rally her Edmund Optics coworkers around charitable causes.
Aug. 27, 2020

Never more so than when the Arizona Technology Council holds its annual food drive for the Community Food Bank and the company competes with other tech firms to donate the most food and money per employee.

“We just won for the third year in a row, and the employees are very proud of that,” she says.

In addition to her role as a principal engineer, Turner helps decide which nonprofits the company supports through employee gift matching and spreads the word about organizations that need help, somewhat assertively. She admits to “twisting arms at times, but gently.”

Edmund Optics employs about 1,000 people worldwide and around 30 in its Tucson office. Turner is among the half locally who are University of Arizona alumni. The company maintains close ties with the James C. Wyant College of Optical Sciences as a donor and industrial affiliate, funding two scholarships and a study area with comfortable chairs and snacks.

“Working for an organization that puts so much emphasis on giving back really helps you see that you truly can help those around you,” says Turner.

Food security has long been a giving priority for Turner. When she and her husband Michael Turner learned about the university’s Campus Pantry, where students can access free food, they established an endowment to support it.

“I’ve seen how an ability to study is impacted by a lack of food or poor quality of food,” says Turner, who serves part-time as an adjunct professor in the James C. Wyant College of Optical Sciences, where she earned master’s and doctoral degrees.

Turner is additionally inspired to give because she appreciates her own triple Wildcat experience. She also graduated with a bachelor’s degree in engineering physics.

“Without the emotional and academic support of University of Arizona faculty, I wouldn’t be where I am today. I need to help pay back. It’s part of the way I am, and I don’t want to change,” she says.