100th birthday gala for Marion Downs will feature vocals by Donny Osmond

David Kirkwood
July 31, 2013
Marion Downs

Marion Downs

Marion Downs has always been ahead of her time. Sixty years ago, as a junior faculty member in audiology at the University of Denver, she was fitting hearing aids on six-month-olds, something that virtually no one else believed could be done.

In 1963, Dr. Downs opened the nation’s first universal infant hearing screening program in Denver, which inspired the movement that decades later culminated in universal newborn hearing screening programs being established in all 50 states and in countries around the world.

Throughout a long and illustrious career, Dr. Downs, widely known as “the mother of pediatric audiology,” has been a pioneer in identifying and treating hearing loss in babies and young children.

So, it seems fitting that when it comes to planning festivities for Marion Downs’s 100th birthday, her myriad friends and admirers are off to an early start.



Donny Osmond

Donny Osmond

The big day will be marked by the Celebrating the Legacy Awards Gala, a benefit for the Marion Downs Hearing Center, to be held January 26, 2014, at the Hyatt Regency Tech Center in Denver. The headline performer at the gala will be the singer Donny Osmond, whose family has a high incidence of genetic childhood hearing loss.

Earlier this month, a kick-off/planning session for the event took place in Denver. Hosts included Sandra Gabbard, PhD, co-director of the Marion Downs Hearing Center and director of audiology at University of Colorado Hospital, and Rulon Stacey, president of University of Colorado Health.

Also taking part were Donny Osmond’s brother Merrill and Merrill’s son Justin. Justin, who was born with a 90% hearing loss, has devoted himself to raising awareness of hearing loss and its treatment. He said, “Someone gave me the chance to hear and the chance to speak with conviction, and now I’m using that to help others. The Osmond family will be 110% behind this project.”

Other guests at the kickoff included Eric and Kristi Switzer and their 5-year-old daughter, Nyla, whose hearing loss was identified the day she was born at University of Colorado Hospital. She wears pink hearing aids with purple earmolds and continues to receive services through the Marion Downs Hearing Center.

Marion Downs, still active at 99, was in the East visiting family and missed the planning event. However, there’s no doubt she will be at the gala to celebrate the start of her second century.

In addition to honoring Marion Downs birthday and raising money for the hearing center that bears her name, the gala will launch a year-long effort to promote hearing loss awareness.

“Marion Downs is a visionary, and we’re honored to walk in her footsteps,” said Sandra Gabbard, one of the many audiologists inspired by her work.

Tickets for the gala can be purchased by calling 720/848-3042.

birdsong hearing benefits
  1. I lived in Colorado from 2000 to 2009 even through I was born at the military base which is now the University of Colorado Hospital. As being a premature baby and not know what cause my hearing loss at the age of 5. I believe I was the smallest baby born there. Never in my wildest dream would I be back in the same area to get Bi-Cochlear implants done. The staff there were so wonderful and so caring that they went out of their way to make sure you were comfortable from start to finish and all the way with the follow ups. Thank you Marion Downs Center making my dream come true!!!

  2. In February 1964 I was a Senior at Texas Woman’s University in Speech and Hearing Therapy. Dr. Downs was the guest speaker at the deparment’s annual Mid-Winter Conference. To this day, I still have a clear visual memory of her speaking to the faculty members of the Speech and Hearing Deparment, TWU students, and professionals from the fields of audiology and speech and hearing.

    I realized many years later that it was primarily a result of Dr. Downs’ talk about early intervention and fitting babies with hearing aids that I continued with my studies and earned a Master’s Degree in the Education of the Hearing Impaired. During the forty-one years that I spent working with hearing impaired babies, young children and their families, I was fortunate to participate in the technological, audiological and early intervention changes that took place in the education of the hearing impaired. Of course there were many other illustrative pioneers and professionals who helped pave the way for early identification and treatment of babies and young children and greatly influenced me, but Marion Downs was the first. I send my sincere gratitude and best wishes on her 100th birthday!
    Mary Ann Costin, B.S., M.A. LSLS, Cert AVT

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