The members of the Upper Iowa University Cheer Squad include (back, left) Stephanie Ivy, Chicago, Ill.; co-captain Dacia Bassett, Fayette, Iowa; Myranda Bartels, Elma, Iowa; Abrill Taylor, Fayette, Iowa; Kirsten Richardson, Riceville, Iowa; and Llani Main, Omaha, Neb.; (front, left) Taijaha Manuel, Chicago, Ill.; Mallory Wiese, West Union, Iowa; Megan Fischer, Ramsey, Minn; Lesley Codd, Belize City, Belize; and Amber Davis, Chicago, Ill.
FAYETTE, Iowa (March 10, 2014) – There is a famous quote by anthropologist Margaret Mead that says, "Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it is the only thing that ever has." The heart of that quote is that opportunity and change can be spearheaded by a few individuals with the potential to have a positive impact on the future. That is happening at Upper Iowa University right now. What began as a grassroots effort by a few students to form a cheerleading squad has grown into a recognized varsity team with potential for growth and opportunity for generations to come thanks to a $1.5 million endowment by alumna Diane Harms, Class of 1973. The Diane Kinkead Harms Cheer Endowment will fund a full-time head coach, as well as operational costs to ensure longevity of the program with the goal of forming a competitive cheer team. An additional $150,000 gift from Harms will provide immediate support to fund program operations.
Last May, UIU students Dacia Bassett of Fayette, Iowa, and Amber Davis of Chicago, Ill., had the idea to resurrect the former Upper Iowa cheer program. Davis, a former high school cheerleader and member of an all-star competition squad that performed a halftime show for the WNBA Chicago Sky, had noticed other students around campus wearing their high school cheerleading team shirts. "We thought we should try and get the team going again," said Davis.
They recruited others and then approached Brock Wissmiller, UIU assistant athletic director for external operations, with an idea to cheer at Upper Iowa Peacock athletic events and perform during halftime at Homecoming. "I thought it was a great idea," said Wissmiller. "We worked to find them a place to practice and an advisor in Kate Grover, director of our UIU Rec Center and a former cheerleader."
Throughout the summer, the squad practiced cheers, and added stunts thanks to Sabrina Schmitt '00, a former UIU cheerleader who volunteered her time. As Upper Iowa students headed back to class in the fall, the small cadre designed and hung flyers around campus to increase interest. Through their efforts, more joined the squad and 15 women cheered on the Peacocks.
Avid supporters of Upper Iowa University, alumni Steve and Diane Harms are often seen at Peacock athletic events, especially football. Steve, a native of Sumner, Iowa, played for the Peacocks for four years; Diane, who hails from Whittier, Iowa, cheered for three years at UIU. Diane had felt for many years that without cheerleaders, athletic events seemed to lack the enthusiasm she remembered from her days on the squad.
"For me, sports and cheerleading go together," she said. "When I saw the students cheering at Homecoming, I was excited! I heard their story about how these two young women persisted to bring cheerleading back to Upper Iowa. I was impressed. At halftime, I spoke to Dave Miller and told him I would like to buy uniforms for the new squad."
"Upper Iowa has a loyal friend and supporter in Steve and Diane Harms," said UIU Athletics Director David Miller. "What they have given to our University and how they have supported and enriched students' college experience over the years is to be commended."
Recently, Wissmiller, Miller, Grover and UIU President Bill Duffy presented Diane with the unique opportunity of endowing a cheer program at Upper Iowa. "She did not hesitate," Miller added. "An endowed cheer program is rare in Division II athletics. With the addition of the competitive component, a new Upper Iowa University program allows us to recruit highly sought after student-athletes and adds value to our University."
"It's a great day to be a Peacock," said Grover, the squad's advisor. "This is a prime example – student initiatives are so important. Without the students and their perseverance, we would never have thought of doing this. They sparked an interest in our amazing donor, and together they have made this possible."
About Upper Iowa University Founded in 1857, Upper Iowa University is a private, not-for-profit university providing undergraduate and graduate degree programs to more than 6,200 students – nationally and internationally – at its Fayette campus and learning centers worldwide. Upper Iowa University is a recognized innovator in offering accredited, quality programs through flexible, multiple delivery systems, including online and self-paced degree program. With a focus on developing leaders and lifelong learners, UIU provides dual enrollment programs for high school students as well as continuing education and professional development opportunities for learners of any age. For more information, visit www.uiu.edu.
Monica Bayer Heaton
Associate Vice President for Communication and Marketing