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Above: Disk jockey Valerie Block (right) meets country music star Dottie West in 1971.
A Natural Affinity for Glass (and Country Music)

by Rich Wilhelm

Valerie Block does not remember if Johnny Cash was actually wearing black the day she spied him in his front yard back in the 1970s. Block, who was then a country music disk jockey at WDEE in Michigan, was riding on a tour bus with a group of her loyal listeners, when the tour guide pointed out the legendary “Man in Black” standing in the front yard of his Hendersonville, Tenn., home. Cash smiled and waved at the fans. “I thought the people on the bus were going to die, they were so excited,” says Block.

Yes, you did read that correctly. Valerie Block — a longtime ASTM member who has spent 25 years in the glass industry and was recently chosen as one of the most influential people in the glass and metal industry by USGlass magazine — was once a country music DJ.

Block, currently a senior marketing representative, DuPont Laminating Solutions in Wilmington, Del., remembers her broadcasting days fondly. A communications major in college, Block didn’t have any connection to country music when she first applied for broadcasting positions, but a country station was the first to respond to her resume. “So, I studied the format and really had fun with it,” Block says. While Block’s radio career started at WRCP in Philadelphia on her summer breaks, she later hit the airwaves at WNRS in Ann Arbor, Mich., while attending graduate school at the University of Michigan. As an afternoon on-air personality, Block says with a laugh, “I had a great following — I had all kinds of fame from that and even published a cookbook.”

In addition to the brief encounter with Cash, Block’s radio connections allowed her to meet such country superstars as Minnie Pearl, Dottie West, Roy Acuff, and others.

Although Block was unfamiliar with country music when she first applied for radio jobs in college, spinning records by Dolly Parton, Charlie Pride, Mel Tillis and other classic country stars from 1971 through 1976 has left a positive impression on her, as well as many good memories. “Country music has really changed, but it’s still fabulous,” says Block. “I love that whole world and the musicians in Nashville are the best you’ll hear in the world.”

Despite her love of country radio, Block felt that her career needed a new direction. “Being a disk jockey was really fun and gave me a lot of radio experience,” Block says. “For awhile, I thought I’d stay in broadcasting, but something was always pulling me back into the glass industry.”

Gradually, Block made her way into the glass industry, working for Laminated Glass Corporation, her father’s glass laminating company. She went on to serve as a technical consultant to the Glass Association of North America, and later as the technical director of the Primary Glass Manufacturers Council. She has been at DuPont Glass Laminating Solutions in Wilmington, Del., for the past year.

Valerie Block’s long history with ASTM began when she joined Committee C14 on Glass and Glass Products. Work on a security glazing standard led Block to join Committee F12 on Security Systems and Equipment and eventually she joined Committee E06 on Performance of Buildings to be able to work on a hurricane impact standard. Later she became the head of the task group responsible for E 1300, Practice for Determining Load Resistance of Glass in Buildings, a large standard under the jurisdiction of E06. Block has also chaired two ASTM International symposia including one sponsored by Committee F12, Building Security in an Age of Terrorism, that was held this month.

While Valerie Block has many interests, she has found one creative outlet that allows her to see the glass industry in a new perspective — glassblowing, which she has been doing for two years. “After many years of working with glass and designing with it, I wanted to see glass in its most basic, molten, form,” says Block. Block claims her most successful output is paperweights, but she has also created mugs and bowls. “It’s like any art hobby, like pottery or painting,” Block says. “Unless you’re a genius, you’re a beginner for a long time.” Block is currently content with her beginner’s status as a glassblower.
Regarding her recent inclusion in the USGlass “Most Influential” issue, Block feels that her success in the glass industry is due to a few very basic elements. “Although my background is somewhat atypical for spending 25 years in the glass industry, I’d attribute my success to being a good communicator, being hard working and bringing the technical people together,” says Block. “Plus, I have a natural affinity for glass.”

Copyright 2004, ASTM International

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