By Romi Carrell Wittman –
2017 Tucson Woman of the Year
Lynne Wood Dusenberry was doing what she’s known for – supporting a local charitable organization – when she got some unexpected news.
Dusenberry was attending the YMCA Foundation luncheon when the emcee said there was a special announcement. When Dusenberry heard it, she was shocked. That’s when she learned she was selected the 2017 Woman of the Year by the Greater Tucson Leadership Council.
“It was the furthest thing from my mind,” she said. “I was so surprised and humbled by the honor.” After reading some of the letters of support for her nomination, Dusenberry said she was deeply touched.
“It was so nice to hear – and it’s not my funeral,” she joked.
Dusenberry’s commitment to Southern Arizona goes back several decades. After graduating from the University of Arizona College of Law, she went to work in the UA Office of the General Counsel. There she built a 33-year law career, eventually rising to the position of VP & General Counsel, Legal Affairs. She retired in 2012.
Throughout her career, Dusenberry has worn the proverbial “many hats.” She served active duty in the U.S. Navy, specifically as a lieutenant with the Judge Advocate General’s Corps. After leaving the Navy, she continued to serve in the U.S. Navy reserves.
Dusenberry also has long been a driving force in the community, working tirelessly to improve the lives of everyone in Southern Arizona. She has lent her vision and energy to any number of local organizations, including to the Humane Society of Southern Arizona, the Girl Scouts of Southern Arizona, Child and Family Resources, Habitat for Humanity Tucson, the Pima Council on Aging, Arizona Public Media, Angel Charity for Children, the United Way of Tucson and Southern Arizona and, most recently, the Arizona Theatre Company.
In her tenure at ATC, she helped the organization carry on in the face of dwindling finances and the possibility of closure. Today ATC is again thriving and enjoying its 51st season.
“On June 27, 2016, the board determined that – if we did not raise $2 million in 17 days, we would not have enough capital to successfully complete our 50th season,” said Pauline Urbano Hechler, ATC’s director of development. June 27, 2016, happened to be Dusenberry’s first meeting as board chair.
“A lesser person would have resigned,” Hechler said. “But Lynne calmly directed the board and worked with staff leadership in our efforts to meet the challenge. We were successful and opened our doors to one of the strongest seasons ever.”
The anecdote embodies Dusenberry’s calm, clear-eyed leadership and tenacity in the face of difficult odds.
Over the years, Allison M. Vaillancourt, VP of business affairs and human resources at the UA, has worked with Dusenberry on both professional and personal projects.
“Several people and organizations in Tucson have benefited from Lynne’s ‘all in’ approach to life. I am most familiar with the extraordinary leadership she has provided to Angel Charity, United Way and the Girl Scouts,” Vaillancourt said. “Her efforts have raised millions of dollars to make Tucson a safer and more vibrant community. It is said that when you want something done, you should ask a busy person. Lynne is that busy person.”
T. VanHook, CEO of Habitat for Humanity Tucson, said, “Lynne is a rare combination of an entrepreneurial spirit driven by kindness and an honest commitment to her family, friends, neighbors and to making the world a better place for everyone.”
When asked how she managed to build a successful career while volunteering extensively and raising a family, Dusenberry shrugged. “I’ve had decades to do different things. You just have to set your priorities.”
Dusenberry is characteristically humble about being celebrated for her many accomplishments and said she hopes it spurs others to do more. “I’m really grateful. Getting the award wasn’t on my radar. I do things because they need to be done and I hope that encourages others to volunteer and do the things that need to be done for our community.”