Dorothy Finley

Areas of Achievement: 
Community Building

Dorothy Hunt Finley's life is characterized by a remarkable dedication to her community. At the age of 88, she is still actively involved in the community of Tucson. She is affiliated with over 100 non-profit, academic, and professional organizations. A longtime supporter of Women's Studies, she co-founded the Women's Studies Advisory Council at the University of Arizona (WOSAC) with Marilyn Heins in 1987. She has won dozens of awards, including Tucson's Woman of the Year in 1989 from the Tucson Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce and the Distinguished Citizen Award in 1993. Finley once commented, 'The community is an extension of my home and I have set about to make it a better place in which to live' (Benedict). She has excelled in her professions, both in the area of education and as CEO of Finley Distributing.
Finley's determination to succeed began early on in life. As a child, she wanted to be the best at everything that she set out to accomplish, regardless of any obstacles that could have held her back. At the same time, however, she is extraordinarily humble. When she discusses her success, she is quick to attribute that success to the work of the people around her. She is motivated by a desire to help those less fortunate than herself. When she was growing up, her father instilled in her the importance of community service. Thus, whenever she encounters someone in need, she said 'she will step in and see what can do to help' (Finley interview).
Finley was born in Douglas, Arizona, in 1920, into a cattle-ranching family. As a teenager, she attended a boarding school in California, as there were no high schools where she lived. In 1939, she returned to Arizona to attend the University of Arizona, where she graduated in 1943 with a Bachelor's degree in Education and with minors in Physical Education and English. After graduation, she started teaching at Wakefield Jr. High School as a Physical Education teacher, coach, and English teacher. She left the teaching profession in 1947 when she married her husband, Harold Finley.
The year of 1948 brought about two life-changing events. The first event was the birth of her son, John. It was also in this year that Finley and her husband started a beer distributing business, which is now Finley Distributing. The company started with one delivery truck, which Finley occasionally drove. On the weekends, Finley put her baby in his bassinet, put him on the front seat of the truck, and delivered beer around the county.
Seven years later, Finley returned to the teaching profession when she began teaching at Pueblo Gardens Elementary. She taught at the school from 1955 to 1959. During her time at Pueblo Gardens, she decided to go back to school to further her studies in education. She returned to the University of Arizona to work on her Master of Art in Education in 1959. In 1960, while she was completing her Masters, she started working as an administrator in the Tucson Unified School District. She served as principal of White Elementary for fourteen years, and later Shumaker Elementary for six years. Her career as a principal ended in 1980, when she and her husband decided to travel around the world for two years. When they returned, her husband decided that he wanted to sell the family business, but she convinced him to reconsider. He agreed not to sell on the condition that she would assume control of the business. She accepted, and in 1982, Finley became the CEO of Finley Distributing. Although her son took over as CEO in 2007, she continues to serve the company as Chairwoman of the Board.
Finley also serves on the boards of other organizations, such as The Tucson Urban League, the Tucson Symphony Orchestra, and the Tucson Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce. She has been actively involved in organizations that aim to enrich the lives of children, such as the Tucson Children's Museum and the Arizona Children's Home. An experienced fundraiser, she has assisted in raising money for such organizations as Big Brother/Big Sister, the Juvenile Diabetes Association, and La Frontera Child Family Center. She has demonstrated a remarkable dedication to improving the quality of life for those in need. Her generosity and selfless service has undoubtedly enriched the community of Tucson. Indeed, Finley was designated as one of Tucson's Most Influential People in 1994.