Kaimay Yuen Terry may be known as the behind-the-scenes champion for Chinese Dance Theater at Chinese American Association of Minnesota. However, from health and social issues, to arts and civil rights, she has been the backbone of many thankless efforts for decades.
Terry once stated that it was her girlhood dream to leave the confines of a highly restricted and competitive Hong Kong society of the early 1960s to explore the world beyond. She left with the promise of a performance based college scholarship at a time when there was no TOEFL requirement and propeller planes still took people across the ocean to America.
She went on to graduate from Oberlin College in 1962, before earning an MSW from the University of Chicago, and an MPH from Johns Hopkins University. After working for Tufts New England and Boston Medical Center, she was a co-director of the Aging Project for the National Institute of Health, before becoming a Senior Health Planner for United Way of Minneapolis.
As founder of VideoMed, Inc., Terry produced more than 50 multilingual health and patient information programs provider-physicians, clinics and hospitals nationwide. She is also the founder of employee resource consulting firm, K.Y. Terry & Associates.
Amos S. Deinard, MD, MPH, said Terry was instrumental during the 1990s with the development of the immigrant and refugee health programs Community University Health Care Center in Minneapolis. Her cultural and language appropriate videos helped addressed health issues that staff would otherwise have had a more difficult time getting across.
“The videotapes have been distributed throughout the United States with many repeat orders with accolades on the quality of the product,” said Deinard.
As a professional Asian immigrant, Terry understood the undertone to the issues surrounding the Wen Ho Lee case that was overlooked in the mainstream media, and was impressed by the personal courage he displayed in his humiliating treatment at the hands of the government that wrongly accused a reputable nuclear scientist of betraying national secrets.
Terry convinced former U.S. Ambassador Burton Levin, William Sullivan, a high level nuclear scientist from Sandia National Laboratory, and Ling-Chi Wang, chair of Ethnic Studies at Berkeley to speak at a Minneapolis fundraising event for Wen Ho Lee.
“Kaimay demonstrated to us a strong sense of justice, not willing to look the other way ‘to avoid troubles’, an old Asian way of ‘minding your own business’,” said Vincent Mar, a board member and past president of Chinese American Association of Minnesota.
Amanda Thompson Rundahl of Minneapolis Institute of Arts, said Terry was instrumental in clearing misconceptions about Chinese volunteerism as cultural guides in the museum.
“The results of Kalmay’s efforts were remarkable and have had a profound and sustained impact on the MIA and its partnerships with individuals and organizations in the Asian Pacific community,” she said. “Today, we have long-standing relationships with tour guides who represent many Asian Pacific traditions, and we can offer tours in several Asian languages.
“This enriches the experiences of the museum’s visitors and promotes cultural understanding and appreciation through the arts,” she added.
In a letter of support, Meredith McQuaid, Associate Vice President and Dean Office of International Programs at the University of Minnesota, described Terry as “a voice of conscience to the Twin Cities community,” where, agree or not, one is moved by the dedication it takes to craft, compose, and circulate a call to action.
“As the voice of the Asian American community on the University’s China Center Advisory Committee, Kaimay has consistently presented points of view which not necessarily represented in the academic community,” he said. “Her opinions helped shape the direction of the China Center under two very different directors.”
Terry was instrumental in bringing the late author Iris Chang to book signing events for her many books, including “Rape of Nanking.” After the author’s tragic death, Terry was instrumental in bringing the film, “Nanking” based on Chang book to the Walker Art Center.
“She (Terry) did not just suggest this film, but gave us an historical context for showing it, then promoted the idea of providing an in-depth post-screening discussion to examine this complex time in international relationships,” said Sheryl Mousley, Walker Film and Video Curator. “KaiMay arranged for a pre-screening reception in honor of Ying Ying and Shau Jin Chang, the parent’s of Iris Chang”
Terry is involved in two more film programs this year, one on the history of modern China as told by its filmmakers, and the second, a shared artist residency by Beijing-based Zhao Liang.
Some of Terry’s board memberships of the U of M China Center Advisory Council, Perpich Center for Arts Education, St. Paul Cultural Star, CAAM Chinese Dance Theater, and Walker Art Center Community Advisory Council. She is a two term president of Chinese American Association of Minnesota, and was Editor in Chief of CAAM News and Views.
Wendy Tai has known Terry 25 years in Minnesota, and called her a frequent source for stories of community service, activism and insights.
“In every instance, she’s been a champion of youth and community, regardless of age, race or ethnic background,” said Tai.
She said Terry is a catalyst who once convinced the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board to allow an unused building to become the new space for CAAM Chinese Dance Theater.
A few years later she negotiate the current studio at Energy Park in St. Paul, and continues to raise funds and work for a Chinese community center. Tai said that as American born ethnic Chinese youth grow the center and CDT has become a place to learn language, elders and a sense of pride of their heritage.
Terry is married to Joseph M. Terry, M.D. They have one daughter, Amanda Terry in New York City.