Dressed head to toe in Peacock attire for almost every day he was employed with Upper Iowa University, it was of no real surprise when Kent McElvania was announced as Upper Iowa University’s 2017 Homecoming grand marshal.
McElvania retired after 32 years of service to the University in September 2017. A Waterloo, Iowa, native, he first served as the head of admissions and financial aid at UIU. In 2003, McElvania assumed the duties of assistant athletic director for compliance. Prior to his retirement, he also served as the University’s interim athletic director.
I felt honored and humbled to be selected as this year’s grand marshal,” McElvania said. “A large number of quality faculty, staff, alumni and friends of the University have served as Homecoming grand marshal – people who made a big difference in the lives of Upper Iowa students. I am honored to follow in their footsteps.”
Born and raised in Waterloo, Iowa, McElvania earned a bachelor’s degree in business administration and economics at Buena Vista University. While working in Buena Vista’s Admissions Office, McElvania met James R. Rocheleau, the person that would eventually lead him to Upper Iowa University. Rocheleau became the president of Upper Iowa University in 1984, and McElvania joined him a year later to become a member of the Peacock family.
“I worked with four presidents and two interim presidents in the 32 years I was at Upper Iowa,” said McElvania. “My job (as assistant athletic director for compliance) was to ensure that the University, student-athletes and coaches were all following NCAA rules.”
McElvania explained that the best thing about his job was working with UIU students, coaches and staff. He noted that on a normal day, he couldn’t walk across Campus without a string of students and coaches greeting him with smiles and kind words along the way.
“We have really great students at Upper Iowa,” McElvania said. “They have a strong work ethic and we instill the 80-20 rule, which is to focus on the 20 percent of the things that will produce 80 percent of your results.”
Although his main responsibility was to make sure students, coaches and staff obeyed the rules, McElvania’s personal priorities included the well-being of all students, making sure they were receiving the best education and coaching available. He witnessed how hard Peacock student-athletes worked in the classroom and with their respective teams.
“You always saw team members studying on the road, in motel lobbies, in their rooms, at the breakfast table,” McElvania said. “It was a blast to work with each and every one of them.”
One of the most cherished memories involved a member of the UIU men’s golf team and what the player did after his final golf match.
“When [he] was done with the 18th hole, you could see that his eyes were tearing up,” McElvania said. “He gave me the ball that he had played with. Scribbled on it was ‘Rock on young warrior.’ That was a mantra that we had started using for the team.”
For those who may wonder if McElvania had been reluctant to retire, he responds that he knew that the time was right for him to step away. With a smile beaming across his face, he explained his immediate plans are to spend more time with his wife, Lois, and family, including babysitting his three grandchildren. However, McElvania insists that Upper Iowa University will remain a large part of his life.
“I wasn’t counting the days, but on the other hand I wasn’t lamenting them either,” said McElvania, who resides in West Union, Iowa. “I just felt like it was just right. It was time to leave. It was time to take the next step in my life. Lois and I will be doing a lot of traveling and watching Upper Iowa games. Anytime we are in town, we will definitely be found cheering at Peacock games.”
It is undeniable that McElvania’s presence will be greatly missed on Campus. His love, passion and dedication to other people is a perfect example of a true Peacock.
“Do what is right,” the 2017 UIU Homecoming grand marshal closed. “Do the best you can and treat others the way you want to be treated. I know everything that I continue to do in my life will follow those three principles.”