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Campus Closeup: Marge Sklar

Dance has factored prominently into Marge Sklar’s (College of Business) life. Her favorite hobby took root in her hometown of Philadelphia, where she learned folk dances connected to her heritage while growing up in an Italian neighborhood. She later learned how other nations express their passion through movement by taking lessons at International House Philadelphia. Sklar also fondly recalls spontaneous summer dances with her family on the plaza outside the city’s Museum of Art. It was the same spot Rocky Balboa—the Italian Stallion—famously pumped his fists in the air after scaling 72 concrete steps with “Gonna Fly Now” as a musical backdrop.

“I suppose you could say dance has followed me wherever I’ve gone,” she said. “I continued with international dancing while going to graduate school in Detroit. When I had various teaching jobs in the city before coming to Marquette, I performed with the Mahealani Dance Troupe for several years. And even when I served in the Peace Corps in Nigeria, women danced outside their kitchens every night. It was their way of saying, ‘The day is over, now let’s have some fun.’ I joined them when they did that.”

It was in Nigeria that Sklar met her future husband and favorite dance partner, Bill. The couple shares their passion with others in a variety of ways. They own the Dance Zone on Lincoln Avenue, where they offer lessons in styles ranging from square and contra to hula, Latin, swing and ballroom. They teach international folk dancing there (pictured) and at the Presque Isle pavilion during the summer months. Marge is faculty adviser to four student dance organizations. And they demonstrate their skills at music performances, as they did doing a traditional Irish caeli dance at last weekend’s Young Dubliners concert.

“It’s good exercise, fun and relaxing,” she said. “Dances all have a history. They might have originated to honor the birth of a son, the solstice, a religious occasion or to celebrate a wedding. And wedding dances in Germany are different from Serbia, Italy and Spain. Moving tells you something about people. It’s a form of communication. I’ve learned more about culture through folk dancing. I hated history and geography, but I love culture.”

She may not have exceled in history or geography, but Sklar did gravitate toward math and computers. She earned a bachelor’s degree in mathematics from Rosemont College in Pennsylvania and a master’s in applied math and computer science from the University of Detroit. Sklar was teaching at Marygrove College in Detroit when two people recommended her for a computer information systems (CIS) faculty appointment at NMU.

“They offered me a two-year appointment, but I only wanted to commit to one year. I had never lived outside a larger city or this far north and wasn’t sure I’d like it. It took about two minutes to realize how beautiful it is and how nice the people are. It reminded me of the homey and caring Italian neighborhood I grew up in. I left for two years to get my doctorate in business administration/information systems from the University of Cincinnati, then returned to Northern and have stayed for 30 years.”

Sklar taught courses such as computer programming and database management before she was promoted to associate dean of the College of Business and department head. She oversees 28 faculty members and helps to address questions and scheduling issues related to them and the students. Despite her administrative role, Sklar isn’t totally removed from teaching. But her classroom is not a lecture hall with desks and chairs or a computer lab. Not surprisingly, it is a studio with a wooden floor. Sklar teaches one dance class each semester as an adjunct faculty member in the School of Health and Human Performance. This fall’s focus is on swing and salsa.