Mary and Michael Turner enjoy meeting, teaching and helping University of Arizona students.
June 3, 2020

“I thought the people I went to school with were brilliant, and they were, but the students today have experienced so much more. The university should be very proud of the students it’s currently graduating,” says Mary, who serves as an adjunct professor for the James C. Wyant College of Optical Sciences and works at Edmund Optics.

Mary holds a master’s and a doctoral degree from the college, as well as an Arizona bachelor’s degree in engineering physics. As an alumnus of the Eller College of Management, Michael volunteers to engage with students through advanced admission interviews and case study competition judging.

The couple are Arizona astronomy enthusiasts and Wildcat football fans. They have long given to the university, their colleges and Arizona Athletics. And they recently discovered a new giving opportunity. When the Turners heard about Campus Pantry, they created an endowment for the program.

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Although classes moved online and many university buildings closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Campus Pantry remained open throughout the spring semester to serve students in need.

Campus Pantry provides food at no cost to students. Last fall, the pantry distributed 80,000 pounds of food and served nearly 1,000 students per week.

Given what Arizona students are already accomplishing despite the fact that so many face food insecurity, the Turners decided, supporting Campus Pantry was an immediate priority.

“Can you imagine what these students could do if they were firing on all cylinders?”

They went with an endowed gift in order to create a reliable, long-term funding source with an immediate payout.

“This was something we could do, and we see the impact. Students shouldn’t go hungry, and they shouldn’t have to choose between buying their textbooks or their meals.”

The Turners see Campus Pantry as the kind of initiative that helps makes Arizona a place where students are valued as individuals. They met in the U.S. Army, married 42 years ago and moved to the area because Mary chose UArizona for her studies.

Michael attended later after transferring from Pima Community College. He has now retired from both IBM and the Army. Both felt accepted and challenged as students. Today, they credit the university with helping them achieve satisfying careers and meaningful lives. Their gratitude for all the university has given them is so strong that, they say, “it’s only right to give something back.”

“Professors go out of their way to know who students are and provide them with opportunities. I still consider mine mentors and friends. You just make connections at this university that stay with you,” says Mary.