Mary Campos holds her diploma

Des Moines Civil Rights Leader Receives Honorary Degree

Posted 11/13/2019

Long-time Iowa Civil Rights Leader Mary E. Campos has received a college degree that she has wished for all of her life.  One day shy of her 90th birthday, Campos received an Honorary DMACC Nursing degree from DMACC President Rob Denson. The award was presented during Al Éxito’s third annual Mary E. Campos Scholarship Luncheon held on the DMACC Ankeny Campus.

“Mary graduated from the St. Joseph’s Academy, now known as Dowling Catholic High School, but a college education was not in the cards for her at that time,” said Denson.  “Despite not being able to earn a nursing degree, Mary clearly became a “healer” within the Des Moines area. This honorary DMACC Nursing degree acknowledges Mary’s achievements and her role in the community.”

In addition to receiving the honorary degree, Campos was in attendance to personally witness the support of the Mary E. Campos Scholarship, which honors her dream of seeing young people, especially students of color, receive their higher education degrees and fill positions of leadership within their communities.

Last year’s scholarship program helped 14 Al Éxito’s Latino youth access higher education who would not have been able to do so without this financial assistance.  The scholarship will be provided to Al Éxito participants from across the state whose dream is to obtain an education and to give back to their community.  Al Éxito serves over 400 high school students across the state.  All seniors and alumni of the program are eligible for the scholarship. The scholarships will be open in mid-December and awarded next spring. Last year, three students who are now attending DMACC received Mary E. Campos Scholarships. 

More than 150 community leaders and members of non-profit organizations and faith-based organizations attended the $50 per person luncheon to raise money for the Mary E. Campos Scholarship Fund.  DMACC announced a lead gift of $5,000 to the Fund.

Campos was the first Latino inducted into the Iowa Women’s Hall of Fame.  In August of 2017, she received the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) Edward S. Allen Award.  She has also earned the Ohtli Award, the highest honor given from the Mexican Government to a Mexican descendent.

Campos has served on the Iowa Civil Rights Commission, the League for League for United Latin American Citizens (LULAC) and was one of the founders of the National Black and Brown Forum.

To learn more about donations to the Mary E. Campos Scholarship Fund, go to

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