Most of us know Senator Terry Van Duyn through her work as a superstar volunteer, non-profit fundraiser, and community philanthropist. She’s done everything from deliver Meals-on-Wheels to raising scholarship funds for the UNCA Foundation to serving as a healthcare navigator for the Affordable Care Act. After she retired from the software industry, Terry moved to Asheville in the 1990s with her husband, Ted, and her son and daughter, Theo and Christine.
Last April, the Asheville Citizen-Times published a lovely profile of Terry. However, here on the campaign, we had a few questions that didn’t make the paper.
Q: Who did you have a crush on in high school? (Terry grew up in Chicago.) Paul McCartney. Absolutely, and I still love him. When the Beatles came to Chicago, it was impossible to get tickets. So I wrote a letter to Mayor Daley asking if he could get me tickets. He actually wrote me back thanking me for writing but with the sad news that he didn’t have any Beatles tickets to give away.
Q: And how does your husband feel abut your crush? (Laughs.) He’s great about it. Both times Paul McCartney remarried, Ted did something special for me.
Q: Who was your favorite teacher? My seventh grade teacher, Mr. O’Brian, comes immediately to mind. He called us all by our surnames and made us feel like we were very smart and mature. I went to Catholic school in Chicago. The Catholic schools there weren’t like private schools – my tuition was something like $4/month – and nuns ran the schools. The nuns were very socially conscious. Are you familiar with the work of Sister Simone Campbell (A Nun on the Bus)? These nuns were like her. Social justice played a very prominent role in their instruction.
Q: What do you do to relax? In the evenings, Ted and I watch TV – always the BBC News and the PBS News Hour. We also enjoy Netflix. My all-time favorite TV show is The Wire. I just love the complexity of those characters – the good guys are often bad and the bad guys are often good. Of course, The West Wing is also a favorite.
Q: While we’re talking entertainment, what’s your favorite movie? There’s a movie called Doubt (starring Meryl Streep, Viola Davis, and Phillip Seymour Hoffman) that made quite an impression on me. Streep plays a nun and a school principal who suspects the parish priest of molesting a student. There’s a scene in the movie where Streep meets with the child’s mother (Davis) because she wants to air her suspicions. It’s a stunning scene, one of the most powerful ones I’ve ever seen. At its root, the movie is all about power – the priest has all of the power and the principal lacks power. That powerlessness leads Streep’s character to question her faith.
Q: You’re an avid reader. Were there any books that you recall having a particular influence over your worldview? In high school, I read a novel called Trinity by Leon Uris. The book described the Irish famine and how the English controlled Ireland’s access to food. I thought, “How could this have happened?” As Americans, we lack context for so many world events. If it doesn’t happen directly to us, so often we don’t even know about it.
Terry holds a B.A. from the University of Illinois in economics and an M.B.A. from the University of Connecticut. She spent her pre-“retirement” career as a computer systems analyst.
Q: What professional accomplishment makes you the most proud?
Programmers love to write elegant computer code. They’re not so concerned with the users’ experience. When I worked in software, I managed to get the systems guys to acknowledge the importance of the end-user and rewrite the code to make it more intuitive and easier to use.
Q: What’s something people may not know about you? I’m a little bit afraid of flying. When I get nervous, though, I remember this time when Ted and I were on a small puddle-jumper, and the plane hit some terrible turbulence. This was when Theo was just a little thing, and he had the most infectious laugh at that age. Every time we would hit turbulent air and the plane would bounce, Theo would laugh and laugh and laugh. It helped everyone feel more at ease. To this day, that laugh helps me relax when I fly.