With $1.5 million gift, cheerleading returns to Upper Iowa U. - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

With $1.5 million gift, cheerleading returns to Upper Iowa U.

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FAYETTE (KWWL) - A $1.5 million gift will bring back competitive cheerleading to Upper Iowa University for years to come.

The effort started with about 15 girls knocking on the Upper Iowa University's athletic office door at the beginning of this school year, but assistant athletic director Brock Wissmiller was skeptical at first.

"We had basketball games a couple years back where we had three student there to cheer, and they actually came to me before the game, those students, and said, 'We're embarrassed,'" said Wissmiller.

The girls took it on themselves, cheering for all football games and home basketball games.

It was something cheerleading alum Diane Harms was pleased to see.

"Sports and cheerleading go together," said Harms. "Everybody would say, 'Where are the cheerleaders?' So I wanted to buy them uniforms, and then staff members got together and came up with the idea of the endowment to ensure that there would always be cheerleading."

Harms decided to establish the Diane Kinkead Harms Endowment of $1.5 million to help pay for a head coach with the goal of forming a competitive cheer team.

"She saw something bigger and greater that can go on and change lives for generations far after we're gone, far after anyone's here," said Dr. William Duffy, UIU president. "It'll go on and on, and that's just, it's humbling."

Officials say the gift is all because those girls decided to step into the athletic office and take a chance.

"If they weren't there knocking on our door, coming to the games, cheering, showing that they were serious about it, we would have never had this endowment," said Wissmiller.

The school is in the process of starting the search for a cheer coach.

They say the NCAA doesn't recognize cheerleading as a sport, but this team plans to perform at competitions like regionals and nationals.

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