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The League of Women Voters of Metropolitan Columbus


McCoys earn Democracy In Action award for legacy of advocacy

Friday, May 14, 2010

Friends, family, and admirers of Terry and David McCoy gathered in the Ohio Statehouse Atrium yesterday evening as the League of Women Voters of Metropolitan Columbus honored the McCoys with the Democracy In Action award.

(l-r) Chuck White, Janyce Katz, David McCoy, Sue Phillips, Kenneth Price

Attendees filled the room with accolades for David and memories of Terry, who died Oct. 2. WBNS-10TV community affairs director emeritus Chuck White, himself a 1996 Democracy In Action honoree, officiated at the event. Rt. Rev. Kenneth L. Price, Jr., Bishop Suffragan of the Episcopal Diocese of Southern Ohio, served as honorary co-chair for David, while Sue Phillips, former League president and development and marketing director at Directions for Youth and Families, served as honorary co-chair for Terry; 2009 Democracy In Action honoree Mike Curtin, associate publisher emeritus of The Columbus Dispatch, presented the award to David.

Awarded since 1992 for outstanding participation in civic affairs, Democracy In Action is the League’s premier tribute to engaged citizenship. This year’s award was made as the League celebrates the 90th anniversary of its founding. The event was made possible through the sponsorship of:

More than three dozen patrons contributed to the success of the ceremony as well. Kitty Burcsu chaired the event with volunteer support from Judy Brachman, Scott Britton, Nancy Brown, Lucy and David Buzzee, Esther Connors, Barbara Crabill, Kathy Dougherty, Anne Hoke, Janyce Katz, Mary Kaul, David McCoy, Anne Nelson, Sue Phillips, Beth and Brent Taggart, and Stuart and Margaret Wright.

A "fanfare" video of old photos plus a tribute video featuring interviews with friends and colleagues of the McCoys were shown at the ceremony.

About the Honorees

Terry and David McCoy \mi-COY\ plural noun; 1. Activists in alleviating poverty, fostering peace and equality, and ensuring that the political process is open to everyone; 2. Teachers, always and everywhere instructing, encouraging, motivating, and empowering others to effectively participate in political and civil life; 3. Leaders, building organizations and fostering new leadership in support of the community; adjective; Charming: hospitable, faithful, musical, warm, witty. Terry was born in New York City on Governor’s Island. She was a graduate of Worthington High School, Wells College in Aurora, New York, and held master’s degrees from NYU and OSU. David grew up in Portsmouth, Ohio. He graduated from Kenyon College and the General Theological Seminary in New York City.

Terry and David met in church camp while they were in high school. During David’s senior and Terry’s junior year in college, they got serious. They married the summer after Terry’s graduation. The Reverend David McCoy is an Episcopal priest. After his ordination he came to St. Stephen’s Church in Columbus. While there, some of David’s time was spent staffing a neighborhood association in the university district. He spent many Mondays at city council meetings, following many issues including zoning and housing. The assignment was his political awakening, opening his eyes to the dire needs of people in the community. His next post was at Christ Church in Xenia, Ohio. Located near two African American colleges (Central State and Wilberforce), Xenia and the church were very biracial. David was the first chair of the Xenia Human Relations Council.

Terry first joined the League of Women Voters in Xenia in the late 1960s. While in Xenia, Terry started a preschool with a friend. She also taught early elementary in Keene, New Hampshire. In New Hampshire, David worked for the National Humanities Series funded by the National Endowment for the Humanities. The program sent teams of professors and performing artists to small and midsized communities. David was liaison with communities in New England. For six months, he traveled with a retired professor who performed a reader’s theater program of “A Matter of Conscience.” Then David led a panel discussion with people in the community about the tension between personal conscience and the dominant culture. When Terry and David returned to Columbus, Terry started the Episcopal Public Policy Network of Ohio, coordinating with the national EPPN to encourage action among Episcopalians on national and Ohio issues.

David became an assistant on staff of St. Stephen’s, then Rector for 10 years. While there, he initiated the Social Justice Committee for the Diocese of Southern Ohio. He was excited to utilize the new technology of e-mail to promote political activism.

After St. Stephen’s, David worked with the Ohio Council of Churches as Legislative Liaison and Director of Public Policy. His role was to speak the Churches’ interests to legislators and to provide educational information to and encourage action among Ohioans through a weekly “Legislative Brief.” He spent a fair amount of time lobbying at the Statehouse. As a champion for the needs of the poor, Terry served as the Director of the Hunger Network in Ohio.

At the same time, Terry was serving as the Legislative Director on the Board of the League of Women Voters of Ohio, directing the League’s studies and advocacy efforts at the state level. These years saw Terry and David as lobbyists at the Statehouse at the same time. Once, they testified on the same bill on the same day. Terry went first; then later, David’s name was called. After David completed his testimony, one of the committee members asked, “And Mr. McCoy, would you and the Council of Churches be in agreement with the suggestion just made by Mrs. McCoy and the League of Women Voters?” definitely accenting the titles, with a hint of a smile.

“Terry was the greatest schmoozer I ever met,” says David. She was never shy about approaching people and always introduced herself to elected officials as “Terry-McCoy-League-of-Women-Voters.”

One of Terry’s greatest joys as Legislative Director was establishing the highly successful volunteer Lobby Corps. Before Terry, there had been a dedicated few lobbyists. Some members have laughed and said that Terry was like a vulture, circling around League members retiring from jobs in the workforce and pulling them into the Lobby Corps.

With advances in communications made possible by new technologies, she also reached out to tap the expertise and enthusiasm of members outside of the neighborhood of the Statehouse. She established Lobby Lunch, an every-other-week meeting of lobbyists and potential lobbyists, to discuss issues, plan and coordinate activities, and provide support for each other. Under Terry, the Lobby Corps grew to an impressive and respected cadre of experts. Terry served as president of LWV of Metro Columbus from 1991-1994. When membership or money seemed hard to come by, her solution was not take a step back and work within smaller means. She believed that only by pushing to do more would the League attract new members and new money.

It was Terry who conceived and initiated the League’s Democracy In Action awards, to recognize Columbus-area people, organizations, and businesses for their contributions to the democratic process. The event served another function as well: highlighting and supporting the work of the League.

Terry served on the board of the League of Women Voters of the United States from 1994-98. While on the national board, she co-authored Empowering Citizens: A Guide to Influencing Public Policy, parts of which were translated into Russian to use with one of the League’s Global Democracy projects. Terry was also part of the League’s delegation to the United Nations Fourth World Conference on Women in Beijing in 1995.

As President of the League of Women Voters of Ohio from 2001-2005, one of Terry’s priorities was judicial reform. She garnered significant funding for the state League to educate the public about judicial impartiality, including a national conference on the subject in 2002 and a reform summit with the late Chief Justice Thomas Moyer in 2003. David’s relationship with the League was, for many years, as an outsider. He claimed to be the charter member of what he laughingly referred to as the “Men’s Auxiliary” where he was “home schooled in the ways of the League.” Mim Brierley finally convinced him to join in the 1990s, and he currently serves on the Metro Columbus League Board.

After five years at the Council of Churches, David became the Dean of the Anglican Academy of the Diocese of Southern Ohio, which provides education programs for laity and clergy. Since he retired, David has taken great joy in traveling around the country with Terry to visit and take to dinner more than 45 of the couples he had married, including one couple now living in Finland. Currently, David works part-time for the diocese as chaplain to retired clergy and their spouses.

David is proud of being a co-founder of the Interfaith Center for Peace in 1982 and of encouraging groups to work in a collaborative fashion, rather than “top down.”

Terry and David have two children, Stephen and Beth, and four grandchildren: Caitelin, Spenser, Caleb, and Sarah. They were married for 48 years before Terry’s death in October 2009.

There’s a proverb: “Give a man a fish and he will eat for a day. Teach a man to fish and he will eat for the rest of his life.” For Terry and David, it’s not an either-or proposition. They’ve used their advocacy skills to make a difference in people’s lives today. And they’ve passed on those advocacy and political participation skills, so that others may make democracy work far into the future. This is Terry’s and David’s powerful legacy to the community and the world.

Event: Democracy In Action
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