By Joanne Davidson
The Denver Post
In 1963, when Marion Downs was working as an audiologist at a new otolaryngology clinic in what was then the University of Colorado Health Sciences Center, she created an infant hearing screening program that has since been adopted by hospitals nationwide.
Today, 96 percent of all babies born in the U.S. are tested within hours of their birth, and those with impairments can be fitted with hearing aids during their first few weeks of life. This helps avoid the speech and language development problems associated with childhood hearing loss.
Downs also trained peers throughout the world in pediatric audiology, authored numerous articles and books, and lectured extensively. The Marion Downs Center continues her pioneering work.
But it's her spunk that people will remember. Downs died of natural causes Nov. 13 in Dana Point, Calif. She was 100.
"Heaven can wait!" she exclaimed in 2011 when she accepted the prestigious Bonfils-Stanton Award for Science and Medicine. And on Jan. 26, when she celebrated her 100th birthday at a gala headlined by Donny Osmond.
Jerry Northern, her friend and colleague of 40 years, ended his tribute by recalling one of Downs' favorite lines: "Live for today, plan for tomorrow, but let's party tonight!"
Marion Pfaender Downs was born Jan. 26, 1914, in New Ulm, Minn. She received degrees in political science and English from the University of Minnesota, a master's degree in audiology from the University of Denver, and honorary doctorates from the University of Colorado, University of Northern Colorado and University of Arizona School of Health Sciences. In 2006, she was inducted into the Colorado Women's Hall of Fame. The nearly 100 articles and books she has published cover various aspects of audiology — and the pre-eminent textbook "Hearing in Children," which she wrote with Northern, has been translated into several foreign languages.