The University of Iowa

Remembering Mary Jo Stanley, friend of International Programs

December 20th, 2017

Mary Jo Stanley passed away on December 14, 2017. A memorial service will be held at 11 a.m. on January 6, 2018, at the First Presbyterian Church of Muscatine.  

Mary Jo and her husband Dick, who passed away on November 17, 2017, were generous supporters of Hancher Auditorium, the UI College of Engineering, International Programs, and the UI Museum of Art. The Stanley Café at Hancher Auditorium was named in their honor to recognize their giving.

Mary Jo Stanley_profile photo

Mary Jo exemplified a deep and abiding compassion and curiosity about people she loved, and about causes important to her.  Her commitment to the arts, culture, and international understanding shone through in her activities, her deeds, and the generous philanthropic support that she and Dick shared with so many organizations.  Dick and Mary Jo’s recent magnificent gift to name the UI Stanley Museum of Art was a final tribute to their on-going support of the work of Dick’s parents, Max and Betty Stanley, that Dick and Mary Jo continued through their lives through the Stanley UI Foundation Support Organization.  We mourn their passing, while at the same time we are grateful for yet another example of their powerful commitment to helping us understand the world and the diverse people in it. Mary Jo’s warm smile and engaging conversations will long be remembered as a beacon of her love.  Her compassion will continue to inspire me in the years to come.
     --Lynette Marshall, president and CEO, UI Center for Advancement

Mary Jo was a dear friend who brightened my world in so many ways. She loved nurturing friendships and cultivating new ones, and I was always in awe of her ability to make everyone feel so special. She was always kind to everyone and found ways to reach out and connect with people from all walks of life. The Hancher family cherished the genuine and heartfelt warmth that Mary Jo radiated when she and Dick attended Hancher performances and gatherings. She would always share with me her surprise that everyone was so nice to her, and I would have to remind her that it was because she was always so kind to everyone else! I also appreciated her keen and special sense of humor. Mary Jo loved to laugh, and I loved more than anything to share a good laugh with her. She loved the Hancher events, and dance performances were probably her favorite. At post-performance parties with the artists, I enjoyed seeing Mary Jo interact with performers from all around the world. Her zest for knowledge and inquiry were exemplified by the interactions she had with the Hancher artists. The artists always responded with such enthusiasm and appreciation for her thoughtful questions and comments. She would give them her utmost attention, and they felt comfortable and honored to answer her questions. My greatest memories of Mary Jo are of meeting her and Dick at the west side doors of Hancher, hearing Mary Jo say how much she loved the new building, and watching her greet her friends with such warmth and grace. It is hard for me to accept that she will not be in attendance at our events anymore. But her memory will live on forever at Hancher and beyond.
     --Chuck Swanson, executive director, Hancher

Mary Jo Stanley worked behind-the-scenes to further the missions of many cultural organizations in Muscatine and throughout Iowa. For 26 years, she volunteered her time to serve as chairperson for the Muscatine Art Center Support Foundation, combining her love for the arts with careful and thoughtful management. Her dedication and insight were impressive, but I most fondly recall her readiness to laugh and her kindness. To observe Mary Jo and her husband Dick together was to witness a remarkable relationship, and the two are inseparable in my memory. Together, the two worked to improve the lives of others, whether through the arts, humanitarian efforts, or social service. Mary Jo and Dick, like his parents, Max and Betty Stanley, have left a lasting legacy to the State of Iowa and the citizens of Muscatine.
     --Melanie Alexander, director, Muscatine Art Center

Mary Jo and Dick Stanley spent their lives giving a voice to the voiceless here and abroad, while tirelessly building relationships to create lasting change. Mary Jo was recruited to the Muscatine Center for Social Action (MCSA) board in its second fledgling year in 1992.  Her humanity and humility influences its direction today.  MCSA exists in our little corner of the globe to act as the voice and innovation for those in need, reducing fear in the lives of those we serve – fear of homelessness, hunger, violence,  sickness, and powerlessness.  As these fears are reduced, neighbors can strive to reach their true human potential.  Mary Jo and Dick believed in the mission and chose to walk alongside those most in need.  They took their walk with love and goodness.  And, I think anyone that is familiar with MCSA’s history, would say the Stanleys often led the walk through love, through their presence and through their actions which is evidenced by the programs at MCSA that would not exist or would not have been as robust without their grace; the many lives touched, changed, and transformed. We are grateful, changed, and bettered by their friendship. 
     --Charla Schafer, executive director, Muscatine Center for Social Action 

The Stanleys provided significant support both financially and inspirationally. A major financial gift from Dick and Mary Jo enabled the museum to build the new facility. They named the museum’s banquet hall the Aldeen Davis Celebration Hall. They wanted to recognize Aldeen, who was an African American lady that devoted many years to improving life in Muscatine. Mary Jo kept aware of the museum’s work through the museum newsletter. On occasion Dick and Mary Jo visited the museum for programs or exhibit openings. She decided to donate toward several projects that included oral histories and exhibits and told me that she would let Dick know when he got home. When they learned that the museum was flooded in 2008 they automatically mailed a significant donation toward our recovery. The museum owes much to the Stanleys. Mary Jo and Dick hosted me at their home on Mulberry on several occasions. Mary Jo treated me as if I was a dignitary from the United Nations, serving me cookies and coffee. She was eager to hear how the museum was doing and had questions about articles she read in the Griot. Some years ago my wife and I vacationed in Muscatine for several days during which she and Dick took us to the Country Club for dinner and conversation. They shared their background years and how they met and told us about their family. It was obvious to us their children and grandchildren were top priority, then church, even above the global work they were doing. When Mary Jo began having health issues we became prayer partners. She really appreciated me praying for her. Lillie and I will never forget how gracious these very high impactful people were to us. It wasn’t a surprise to me to learn of her demise shortly following Dick. They did everything together. We will miss them greatly but are thankful for having known them.
     --Tom Moore, co-founder and former executive director, African American Museum of Iowa