Donna Reed was born Donnabelle Mullenger in Denison, Iowa, on January 27, 1921. At age 17, she left Denison by train for Los Angeles to complete her formal education and to pursue her dream of becoming an actress. Her dream became a reality as she captivated the country with her sensitive portrayals in films like the great American classic It's a Wonderful Life and From Here to Eternity for which she won the coveted Academy Award® for Best Supporting Actress.
Donna is perhaps best remembered for her work on her own television series, The Donna Reed Show, which aired from 1958 through 1966. She played the role of an honest, humorous, and nurturing mother much like her real self. Behind the cameras, she was the uncredited producer and director of the show, studying and mastering both lighting and cinematography--roles rarely handled by women of that time. She also raised four children and was the co-founder of Another Mother for Peace.
Notwithstanding the fame and fortune she found in Hollywood, Donna never forgot her hometown of Denison. She was proud of being an Iowa farm girl. She returned to Denison often throughout her career. Following her death in 1986, her Oscar® was left to the City of Denison to be displayed at the historic McHenry House. Family, friends, and communities turned out to honor her and from that gathering the Donna Reed Foundation for the Performing Arts was born. It has continued ever since to perpetuate her legacy of helping other young artists and developing a cultural heritage in Denison.