Mary A. Grefe


"To Mary Grefe, all the world is her neighborhood."
—Kathleen Wood, The Des Moines Register, January 14, 1987

Mary A. Grefe, a leader in educational policy from Des Moines, was elected to a two-year term as national president of the American Association of University Women in 1979. She has distinguished herself in shaping educational policy as presidential delegate to the UNESCO Third World Conference on Adult Education, as chairperson of the U.S. Advisory Committee on Adult Education, and as a member of the Des Moines School Board for 12 years. She was also a member of the United States delegation to the United Nations Mid-Decade Conference for Women. A former YWCA director, Grefe has worked as a professional consultant on organizational development and is a member of the boards of directors of Central National Bank and Bankers Life companies in Des Moines. She was born in 1928. Grefe was inducted into the Iowa Women's Hall of Fame in 1980.

UPDATE: Grefe is the retired president of LEAD Associates, Ltd. of Des Moines. Currently, she serves on the board of trustees of Morningside College and as treasurer of the Iowa Peace Institute, for which she formerly served as chairperson. She is the past president of the National American Association of University Women--the only person to have been nominated and elected from the floor of the national convention. She has also served as president of the AAUW Educational Foundation, which makes grants of over $2 million annually to women scholars. Past community service in Des Moines includes serving as president of the Des Moines School Board and member for 12 years and past president of the Metro Des Moines League of Women Voters. A former YWCA executive director, Grefe has been active at all levels of government in working for equal rights for women. She was appointed by President Ford as the first woman to chair the National Advisory Council on Adult Education, has travelled widely as an official government delegate to international conferences overseas, including Tokyo, Japan, Copenhagen, Denmark, Nairobi, Kenya, and as a guest of the Chinese government to China. She received the National Brotherhood Award from the National Conference for Community and Justice. She holds five honorary doctorates, the most recent in 1997 from the University of New England.