Nancy and Peter Torpey

The Tables were Turned

Nancy and Peter Torpey at Cootes Paradise, Royal Botanical Gardens, OntarioNancy and Peter Torpey are both physicists. They took an early retirement and as a result are still young and extremely active. One of their many volunteer endeavours is hosting the online interview show "ViewPoints". The story this month is different because Nancy and Peter Torpey's story is recorded and available as one of the ViewPoints audio interview programs. This time, they are the ones being interviewed.

It's a Small World

The Torpeys live in New York State, I live in Ontario. When I was in touch with them by email about possibly publishing their 'story' we discovered that we were not separated by a great distance and that they were going to be in my area in March. We met at the Royal Botanical Gardens Centre for lunch and then explored Cootes Paradise, one of the amazing gardens and nature reserves nearby. It was a wonderful introduction, an opportunity to meet face-to-face before we recorded the interview several weeks later.

Highlights & Other Things

Nancy and Peter Torpey standing with a natural tree sculpture in Cootes ParadiseDuring the interview Nancy and Peter tell us about their careers, family life, hobbies, adventures, ViewPoints (the online radio show they host) and a bit about living with a visual impairment. Nancy and Peter are anomalies (different from the norm) – approximately 6% of physicists are female, and an even smaller percentage is blind. They belong to a book club and read a great deal – Peter is a big fan of the navigation and the other features that DAISY books provide, and Nancy wishes that the audio books she sometimes listens to when she's walking or gardening provided DAISY book functionality.

Prior to graduate school Peter had some functioning vision, however an operation that may have improved his vision wasn't successful, in fact it resulted in the loss of most of the vision he had. That did not hold him back. Nancy who is sighted had always enjoyed mathematics and wanted something more tangible; as physics is really applied math, it seemed a perfect fit.

After getting her PhD Nancy did a one year post-doctoral fellowship at a government research institute in Germany and traveled around Europe on weekends and holidays. Peter started right into working for Xerox after he completed his PhD. That is actually one of the more interesting parts of their story – at Xerox Peter developed image processing algorithms for optimizing print quality for ink jet printers and later lead the team responsible for this. How could someone who couldn't see the print hold this position?

Nancy, Peter, Brian and Allison hiking when the children were young The Torpeys have two children, Brian and Allison. They love hiking, bike riding, mountain climbing and travelling. Nancy and Peter also like to dance – even though they both worked at Xerox, they actually met at a dance about a week after Nancy had started working for the company. Now that they are retired they have more time for volunteer involvement including teaching science to fourth grade students at a public school, working with their local land trust to protect open spaces and of course the ViewPoints program.

The Peter Torpey Trio, Peter is standing on the left Peter is also a musician – he's studied piano when he was a child and as time passed he found that jazz was what he most loved to play. His jazz band, the Peter Torpey Trio performs standards from the 1930's and 40's locally, preferring small to medium-sized venues.

ViewPoints is a half-hour weekly interview show. Nancy and Peter interview a different guest each week and discuss products, services and daily living tips for people with vision loss. The show has been downloaded in all 50 states in the US, 8 Canadian provinces and over 70 other countries. The shows are available as podcasts or online download, and are also broadcast by Radio Reading Services across Canada and the USA.

Their Story

Nancy and Peter wearing ViewPoints Starz T-shirts The show is hosted and produced by Peter Torpey and Nancy Goodman Torpey in partnership with WXXI Reachout Radio in Rochester, NY. The "signature" opening of the show is in synthetic speech and the theme song was written and performed by Peter. The podcast of the interview with Nancy and Peter begins with some tips and information about previous shows. The introduction to the interview with Nancy and Peter begins about 4 minutes in. You can go directly to the program with the interview on ViewPointsPlus and can access all of their podcasts and the show notes (provided for each program) at