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Financial Assistance Executive Director reflects on rewards of a long BVU career

September 02, 2021 4:10pm

It might not be a stretch to say that Leanne Valentine has handled more money at Buena Vista University than anyone in the 131 years of the institution

That’s an honor reserved for the Executive Director of Financial Assistance, a professional who held that title for nearly four decades as she directed the disbursement of financial aid awards that ignited then kept dreams alive for hundreds of thousands of BVU students.

“More than $18 million will be awarded in institutional funds to first-year and returning students this year,” says Valentine, noting how the generosity of BVU alumni and benefactors continue to help keep the college experience affordable. “Overall, when considering loans and other aid awards, the amount we process through the doors here in our office is much more.”

Keep in mind that Valentine has served the office for 38 years, the bulk of which she’s been Executive  Director.

BVU is the only full-time employer Valentine has ever known. The 1983 BVU graduate secured a position in the Financial Assistance office prior to her May Commencement. She and husband Troy Valentine, a 1982 BVU graduate, wed on Sept. 3 that year. For years, Troy has served as Associate General Manager for the Chronicle-Times in Cherokee, where they reside.

Both Troy and Leanne retire on Sept. 3, one unique way to celebrate their 38th wedding anniversary.

“I’ve always cherished the fact that I’ve spent my entire career at BVU,” says Leanne Valentine, a Le Mars native who followed her older sister, Jayne (Krommendyk) Martin to BVU. “I loved the job as it represented the perfect blend of what I enjoy: analytical thinking, financial planning, conducting presentations, meeting with students and parents.”

Valentine was joined in her career by four coworkers who helped her serve the office through 20 years: BVU grads Joyce Sandine and Jill Baumann, as well as Barb Zeigler and Laurie Lyman. Bob Siefer and Randy Fehr are two longtime BVU colleagues Valentine looked up to in various stages of her career.

“I also had some great mentors in BVU Vice Presidents Julie Keehner, John Klockentager, and Michael Frantz. It was always a great team effort,” she says.

Valentine is now joined in an office consisting of Patti Demers, Emily Gallagher, and Elizabeth Leo. “I have the utmost respect for our current staff in the office,” she says. “They demonstrate an unwavering dedication to the work we do, as financial aid is so regulation-driven and can become complicated, so you grow to really depend on your staff.”

“BVU has been blessed for decades to have a BVU advocate with such patience and thorough command of a very complex process known as financial aid,” says BVU President Brian Lenzmeier. “For nearly four decades, Leanne Valentine has guided thousands of students, parents, and guardians through an incredibly essential, if not unsung, part of the educational process here at BVU. Leanne and her coworkers through the years have kept the wheels at BVU moving ahead, allowing our students to see their lives and careers change because of what happens here and all across Iowa. BVU and the lives we impact have been made better by Leanne. We will surely miss her!”

In retirement, Leanne says she and Troy will travel this fall from Iowa to Oklahoma to Colorado to Utah, seeing national parks and BVU friends along the way. The road trip, she laughs, may make up for the 50-mile daily roundtrip she’s giving up in retirement.

“I drove from Cherokee to Storm Lake five days per week for 38 years,” she says, pausing to calculate the mileage. “Troy and I look forward to driving west and spending some time on the road, which we do enjoy.”

Later this fall, the Valentines will pack up their BVU gear and head east as they follow their son, Trey, as he suits up for his final season of Beaver basketball. The men’s team has games in St. Louis, Baltimore, and Chicago, in addition to several road contests across Iowa and the Midwest.

Trey, a senior who majors in business-financial decision making, represents the 14th member of the extended Valentine family to matriculate to BVU. Troy and Leanne’s daughter, Alanna Fuller, a special education teacher in Cherokee, is also a BVU graduate.

There’s a good chance Leanne handled the FAFSAs and financial aid documents for the BVU students in their family, two among hundreds of thousands of success stories she’s viewed from a unique perspective.

“I started to clean out my desk last week and found a few old thank you notes,” she says with a smile. “We go about our business quietly in this office. The reward is seeing a student graduate and really succeed. That’s a lot of fun; one of the reasons I’ve loved this job.”