Retired Basketball Coach and Former Blackhawk Pilot to Speak at ’19 UF Commencement
Ron Niekamp, a celebrated basketball coach, and Kathleen Cannon, a decorated military combat pilot, will give commencement addresses at University of Findlay’s two ceremonies, to be held Saturday, May 4.
Ron Niekamp will speak to undergraduate students at the 3 p.m. ceremony. He will also be receiving an honorary doctorate in education degree for his years of service and success. In 2015 Niekamp concluded 30 years at UF, where he served as head basketball coach for 26 years, as athletic director for 11 years, and as an instructor for four years. His 2009 Findlay team won the NCAA Division II national championship with a 36-0 record. That year, he was also named National Coach of the year by the National Basketball Coaches Association, and was twice named Ohio College Coach of the Year by the Columbus Dispatch. At UF, his teams posted 26 consecutive winning seasons.
In 2011 Niekamp finished a 39-year coaching career with stops at Parkway High School, Ottawa-Glandorf High School, Lima Senior High School, and the University of Findlay. His overall coaching record, for both high school and college, is a staggering 806-271.
Niekamp has been inducted into the Lima Senior Athletic Hall of Fame, Hancock County Athletic Hall of Fame, University of Findlay Athletic Hall of Fame, Ohio Basketball Hall of Fame, and Miami University Cradle of Coaches Association.
Cannon ’87 will address graduate students at the 9 a.m. ceremony. She earned a bachelor’s degree in equestrian management from Findlay College, and her U.S. Army ROTC scholarship enabled her to become commissioned as a Second Lieutenant. She served 12 years in Germany, Korea, and the United States as a Blackhawk helicopter pilot, platoon leader, and company commander.
Cannon was then selected to become an Army Foreign Area Officer. She studied Mandarin Chinese at the Defense Language Institute in Monterey, California, and graduated from Harvard University with a master’s degree in East Asian studies. She went on to work as an advisor on China strategic security issues for the Department of Defense, as a China military analyst, and as the Army attaché in Hong Kong. She also served combat tours in Iraq and Afghanistan, and is a Legion of Merit award recipient.
In 2012, Cannon retired from 25 years of Army service at the rank of Lieutenant Colonel and returned to her horse-riding passion. She is competing in eventing at the regional and national level, and is earning a financial services master’s degree at Saint Joseph’s University.
Cannon lives with her husband Robert George in Radiant, Virginia.
The undergraduate and graduate commencement ceremonies will be held in Koehler Fitness and Recreation Complex. They will be broadcast live by UFTV on its YouTube Channel at UFTV Productions.
Following each indoor ceremony, weather permitting, graduates will then participate in the Griffith Memorial Arch Ceremony. A recessional will be played, graduates will be led in a formal line of march through the arch in front of Old Main, marking the completion of their time at UF. Students enter through the arch as freshmen, where they are welcomed by faculty and staff. Marching back through the arch at graduation signifies their transformation into more knowledgeable, confident, service-oriented and informed individuals. Both arch ceremonies will be livestreamed on the University’s Facebook page.
For more commencement-related information, visit UF’s 2019 Commencement webpage.