(Not so) quietly living a few houses down from me is beloved neighbor Dyan Venters. Not so quietly because she is a force of nature. She is a fabulous cook, an incredible baker, a talented knitter, a gracious hostess, an intrepid bicyclist, and an avid gardener. She is warm, and welcoming, and opinionated, and effervescent. If you enter her orbit, you are loved and supported and challenged and lucky.
Dyan was born and raised southeast of Dallas, between her family’s farm and the city. Her suburb was built for black families only, and although the intent was to segregate and separate, she and her family were able to experience a life where people who looked like them were achieving at all levels, so everything was possible. She attended college first at Texas Women’s, then at the University of Hawaii, where she lived and raised her two sons for 20 years, and ultimately graduated from the University of San Francisco after relocating to the mainland.
In Hawaii, Dyan and her family were not questioned for who they were, and she didn’t really need to deal with overt racism until moving to California with her wonderful husband, Richard. After moving to Minnesota, Dyan found racism was even more prevalent than in California. In her career(s), Dyan has broken through barriers by owning a business, excelling in senior management roles at Kraft, Hunt Wesson/ ConAgra, and Dairy Queen, and influencing local political change through advocacy organizations, including the League of Women Voters.
Dyan’s response to all challenges, whether personal, social, or professional, is to jump in headfirst, challenge the status quo, and make changes and improvements. She understands that being one of the few African Americans in many situations is both a source of uneasiness and an opportunity to educate, which she does with intelligence and candor. Her ability to be direct, yet open, and intense, yet gentle, is loved by neighbors of all ages. To be her neighbor is an honor and a blessing.