That's her!: Peppy dashes through Museum

"It's my real name, it's Hungarian, and I was never a cheerleader in high school." That answer takes care of the first question people usually ask Virginia Discovery Museum director Peppy Linden: "What's up with your first name?"

But though Peppy is her given name, she says it has influenced her personality.

"It's hard to imagine a person named Peppy being dull," she laughs. C'est vrai!

 Linden says she rarely has a dull moment juggling a variety of volunteer positions at area charities in addition to directing the 23-year-old nonprofit Virginia Discovery Museum, which in the early days was called the Virginia Children's Museum. Linden took on the job 14 years ago when the museum expanded and moved from its location in a house behind the Gordon Avenue Library to its current spot, nestled at the east end of the Downtown Mall.

Linden was no stranger to child-related nonprofits. Before taking the Museum's helm, she spent 14 years at UVA's Children's Rehabilitation Center (now the Kluge Children's Rehabilitation Center).

And it's still children that keep her energy high.

"When I'm having a bad day up in the office," she says, "all I have to do is come down here and see their faces. Then I think, 'Oh yeah, this is why I do this.'"

Indeed, on a recent mid-week visit, the Museum is pleasantly packed with smiling, shouting kids, including a group from Walker Upper Elementary who've come to see an exhibit on outer space.

Linden says she's particularly excited about this exhibit because of its "universal" appeal: It's sponsored by NASA and was designed with help from UVA's astronomy department.

Linden says the key to a successful exhibit is broad appeal. Young children like hands-on experience while older kids and their parents enjoy the written information accompanying each exhibit.

Last year alone, the museum had 47,000 visitors come through to see old favorites like the pioneer cabin and the dress-up corner, and to enjoy back room exhibits which change every three months.

This year, Linden hopes to bring even more visitors into contact with the Museum through a variety of annual outreach programs including the Discovery Dash, an outdoor race for families held May 8, and Kid-Vention, a learning fair held at PVCC on March 13 that this year focused on the human body.

But getting people in the door is only half the battle. Like other nonprofits, fundraising may be the most difficult part of Linden's job.

"When you're an existing organization," she explains, "people tend to take you for granted."

Age: 54

What brought you here? A retreat from Michigan winters

What's worst about living here? Too few smoke-free restaurants and music venues

Favorite hangout? Live Arts

Most overrated virtue? Being thin

What would people be surprised to know about you? Peppy is my real first name.

If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be? Faster recall for people's names

What accomplishment are you proudest of? My work with teenagers at the Children's Rehabilitation Center

What do people find most annoying about you? I'm involved with so many things-­ just too busy.

Whom do you admire? Local resident Julia Martin for her strength, wisdom, and courage

Favorite book? Ahab's Wife by Sena Jeter Naslund

What subject causes you to rant? SOL testing

What thrills you about life in the 21st century? Growing diversity of our communities

What creeps you out about life in the 21st century? Loss of privacy

What do you drive? 2001 Toyota Echo, but mostly I'm a pedestrian

What's in your car CD/tape player right now? Betty Buckley's Just One Look

What's your next journey? A visit with my mother in Louisville, Kentucky

What's the most trouble you've ever gotten in? I was caught in a storm while sailing on the Chesapeake Bay.

What do you regret? Not taking anthropology and Russian literature in college

Favorite comfort food? Lox and cream cheese on a bagel

What's always in your refrigerator? Orange marmalade

Must-see TV? West Wing

Favorite cartoon? Doonesbury

Describe a perfect day. It's early morning on a clear summer day, and I'm by a spring-fed lake with interesting people and access to boats.

Walter Mitty fantasy? Seeing what goes on in the locker room (pre-game) before settling into a good seat to watch the UVA women's basketball team win the national championship

Who'd play you in the movie? Holly Hunter

Most embarrassing moment? Not being patient enough to learn how to wind surf

Best advice you ever got? Life's too short for regrets.

Favorite bumper sticker? A woman's place is in the house– and the senate.

Peppy Linden