Stephanie A. Parker, Ph.D.

Areas of Achievement: 
Activism, Community Building, Education, Higher Education, Philanthropy, Social Service

Honored by

Donor(s) name: WOSAC

A Biography of Family and Opportunities

Formative Years

Stephanie’s father grew up in Iowa and so did her mother. He worked hard to graduate from Iowa State University as a civil engineer. He was in the U.S. Army and promoted as a Captain in World War II. Her mother grew up in a small town as well and loved to be with family and friends. An extrovert she was and a dynamite pianist as well.

They were married shortly before he was sent to the Philippines. Rebecca was born while he was away. Not long after his return four years later, Stephanie was born. In a check-up, the family doctor found that Rebecca developed asthma and shortly thereafter Stephanie acquired pneumonia. There was an urgency for the parents, Rebecca, and Stephanie to leave Iowa and get to Phoenix to live in a dry climate. Rebecca recovered from asthma and Stephanie from pneumonia. The family moved back to the roots of many generations - Iowa.

Stephanie knew the ups and downs her parents experienced in a tumultuous post-war era. During her growing up years they showed the way for her to know how to strive for ideals, make good choices, be kind, and focus on a potential future she would choose.


Completing a Bachelor’s degree and several years later a Doctoral degree, Dr. Parker was offered a position as professor. It was an extraordinary opportunity to work with graduate students completing their courses and research to support their dissertations. Yet, the reality of experience within higher education was challenging. Rather than continue as a professor in higher education, resigning was the best option. Dr. Parker chose to pursue other opportunities to stimulate new ideas, create opportunities, and forward goals into our community and beyond.

In 2001 The Aurora Foundation was born from a dream. Funding from the U.S. Department of Education enabled exceptional opportunities to empower women with disabilities. It was 2002 and the foundation moved forward.
Women of varied ages learned new skills and put them into practice for future goals. They pursued careers they could never have imagined - education, business, medicine; sports and racing; social media, marketing, and advertising; writing books; and fashion design. Women with disabilities created the goals they dreamed for success.

Among the programs The Aurora Foundation offered was the opportunity for women - younger and older – to model fashions designed by students in the Tucson Design College. At the first event the audience of parents and friends, crowded into the Stillwell House and the fashion show kicked off. It was a huge success. That experience grew into a series of successive shows from 2005 to 2012.

The fashion show grew not only as a catalyst for women with disabilities to be the focus of attention, but also as a mirror to the community by insisting that disabilities are not barriers to opportunities.

For each of us, life is in our hands. It makes a difference.