Age 70, Debbie Dillon was born on March 12, 1950 in Benson, Arizona. She passed away on February 4, 2021 after, as she called it, “an irritating and whiney four-year battle with cancer.” She was, in fact, inspirational in the way she dealt with her illness. She was always proud of the fact that her young parents rode cross-country on a motorcycle with their infant son, Richard, from North Carolina to Benson, Arizona in the late 1940’s – true adventurers! She was the product of the Benson school system from kindergarten through high school. She then attended and graduated from the University of Southern California.
Upon graduation, she began a career dedicated to education. She worked in leadership development programs with the Arizona Department of Education. Among the many programs she founded and implemented at the Department were trainings that vastly increased the number of women educators as successful administrators, and a program that strengthened advocacy for Title IX compliance in Arizona schools. The YWCA of the United States Leadership Development Center recognized her distinctive talents and recruited her to head their leadership program for women. In 1989, the City of Phoenix selected her to establish the City of Phoenix Education Office. In that capacity she served as the City’s liaison to the 29 school districts within the boundaries of Phoenix. During her tenure, she reorganized the Education and Youth Commission and established the “Principal for a Day” program, involving CEO’s of businesses in the City’s schools to encourage their participation and better understanding of the challenges faced by teachers and administrators. Countless CEO’s wrote to thank her for giving them this opportunity to better understand the complexities of education and the need for adequate school resources. And countless community leaders believe one of her greatest contributions was serving as a relentless advocate for and invaluable mentor to literally thousands of young people encouraging them to graduate and seek higher educational and career opportunities. To say she was loved by them all would be an understatement. One of her proudest accomplishments was the founding of the “College Depot”, a free, full-service college access center at the Burton Barr Library. It has developed into one of the City’s greatest resource centers for high school students who wish to explore post-high school education opportunities, financial aid, and scholarships. Thousands of students have taken advantage of its college planning advisors and workshops.
Debbie had a lifelong affinity for Boxers. After retiring from the City of Phoenix she dedicated herself to helping rescue and foster Boxers, as well as raise funds for their care and rehabilitation, donating her time generously to the cause. Benson and her southern Arizona roots were an important part of her family legacy and it was her wish to establish an annual scholarship program for a deserving senior graduating from Benson High School in the name of the Dillon Family. Her mother, Mary “Kacky” Dillon served as the Town Mayor. Her father, Everett, was a School Board Member and she, Richard and Anda are all Benson High School graduates. Debbie is survived by her brother Richard Dillon and sister-in-law Anda Dillon of Benson, Arizona; cousins Karen, Steve, Colsen, and Chasen Mercier of Temecula, California; many extended family members in North Carolina; and her beloved Boxer Izzie. She is also survived by Jai and Devan Patel of Phoenix, Arizona, two boys who knew her as “Aunt” Debbie, but who loved and cared for only like a grandmother could. Debbie was the very proud and beloved “Aunt” to Julia and Meghan Meyerson, whom she “mentored” from their birth and who have embarked on educational careers, Julia founding Vista College Prep and Meghan working at College Depot. Debbie was surrounded by many loving and admiring friends and family. Memorial donations may be made to Phoenix Public Library Foundation for College Depot, P.O. Box 3735, Phoenix, Arizona 85030. Debbie requested that her ashes be spread in the Dragoon Mountains, near Benson. A celebration of Debbie’s life will be held at a future date. Phoenix has lost one of its finest public servants. May she rest in peace.