David and Valerie Black
David and Valerie Black's selection as dancers in the final Movers & Shakers Gala actually traces back to David's retirement in 2013.
After leaving his post as president at Eastern College in St. Davids, Pa., David bought dance lessons for himself and Valerie – and promptly decided that life as a working man wasn't such a bad idea.
"When I retired, I realized one of the things Valerie really enjoyed in life is dancing, so I signed us up for dance lessons," David said. "It was such a traumatic experience for me that I called Lakeland and begged them to let me come back and work."
"I can't dance for anything, but the cause is so worth it. It's an opportunity for me to express my great affection for this special place."
So when David suggested to Valerie that they both dance in the final Gala, she was pleased and surprised.
"I was like 'Oh, my,'" Valerie said with a laugh, adding, "David's dance will be really entertaining. Noelia Guerrero is David's teacher and partner, and she is the best at getting David on the dance floor. She is innovative with choreography to make the dance look smooth and fun."
Valerie enjoys dancing so much that she's performed in some competitions that have had her and her dance instructor, Argentinian Martin Cardoso, dancing as many as 80 different, short dances in a day. She has experience in a variety of styles including the waltz, Viennese waltz, foxtrot, bolero, tango, American tango, rumba, East and West Coast swing, salsa, mambo and hustle.
"It's fun," Valerie said. "I do it for the enjoyment and the exercise, and to keep my brain going. I can be having the worst day ever, and when I get to the studio Martin is such a happy person, he is never negative and always encouraging.
"I see people who dance better than I, but it's ok because as long as I'm improving, I'm good. It's such a joy to learn new things and do something that allows you to feel successful."
Valerie said her performance will be upbeat and fast, and her partner will find ways to get the audience involved.
The Blacks have plenty on their plate with their day jobs.
David is in his second stretch as Lakeland's president, and the university has seen noticeable gains in enrollment and fundraising, much like it did during his first tenure from 1989-97.
He led the recent rollout of Cooperative Education at Lakeland, which led to the university welcoming a record freshman class to the main campus this fall. Lakeland is also introducing new innovations in its evening and online programs, including stronger relationships with state technical colleges, the ability for students to earn academic credit for projects they're doing at work and a new Women's Leadership Institute.
For over a decade, Valerie has worked for the real estate business owned by their son, Chris, prepping closings for the variety of logistical needs including background checks and document preparation. Her roots are also in education, having served as principal at Holy Family School in Sheboygan during David's first tenure as Lakeland's president.
David's return to Lakeland has allowed the Blacks to rekindle old friendships at a place they hold dear.
"It's been great," Valerie said. "We love Lakeland and we want the school to be a success. We have a warm relationship with a lot of people here. It's been good to be reconnected the times I've been back. For him, it's fun – a lot of work, but it's good."
David's professional dance partner is Noelia V. Guerrero.
David is dancing to support Israel Macias-Gutierrez.
Valerie's professional dance partner is Martin F. Cardoso.
Valerie is dancing to support Karley Campbell.