Hawkeye Community College Commencement Ceremony Set for May 12

By: Public Relations & Marketing
Date Published: Monday, May 01, 2017

WATERLOO—The Hawkeye Community College commencement ceremony is set for Friday, May 12, at 7:00 p.m. The ceremony will be held at the McLeod Center on the University of Northern Iowa campus, located at 2501 Hudson Road, Cedar Falls. The ceremony recognizes fall 2016, spring 2017, and summer 2017 graduates.

The keynote speaker will be Aaron Thomas, principal and head basketball coach at Aplington-Parkersburg High School. Thomas grew up in Parkersburg and graduated from Aplington-Parkersburg High School. He studied at Drake University, where he was a four-year letter winner in basketball. After a short stint as a graduate assistant basketball coach at St. Cloud State University, he began his teaching career at Union High School in La Porte City. During his tenure at Union he would serve as assistant principal, athletic director, and head basketball coach. He also earned a master’s degree in educational administration from Drake.

Aaron’s father, Ed Thomas, was a beloved high school football coach who trained generations of players on the importance of hard work, dedication, and commitment. Ed embodied these values and put them into action as a community leader, inspiring his town to rebuild in the wake of a deadly EF-5 tornado in 2008. Just a year later, the Thomas family and the entire community was dealt another devastating blow when Ed was fatally shot by one of his former players who suffered from mental health issues.

In the wake of this tragedy, Aaron was asked to take over his father’s responsibilities as athletic director and build on Ed’s legacy as a school and community leader. The Thomas family called for understanding and forgiveness, just as Ed would have wanted them to do. They were awarded the Arthur Ashe Award for Courage at the 2010 ESPY Awards and Aaron received the 2010 Missouri Valley Conference Most Courageous Award. The accomplishments of Ed Thomas and the family’s work to continue his legacy were chronicled in the 2012 book, The Sacred Acre.

Student speaker is Hayley Ritter of Cedar Falls. Ritter graduated from Cedar Falls High School, where she was involved in orchestra and cheerleading throughout her high school career. She enrolled at Hawkeye in fall 2015 to pursue a Liberal Arts Transfer degree. She quickly became involved on campus as a student ambassador and eventually a student ambassador leader. She also worked on campus in the Admissions office. Ritter plans to transfer to the University of Northern Iowa to study communications and journalism.

No tickets are necessary to attend the graduation ceremony. Family and friends who are unable to attend can watch live online at