Laughter mixed with tears Tuesday morning at the farewell reception for Dr. Hollie Coon, who is leaving Perry after serving 16 months as program development director of the Des Moines Area Community College (DMACC) Perry VanKirk Career Academy,
“Hollie’s a cryer,” said Perry businessman Bill Clark, teasingly but truly, as he welcomed community supporters to the coffee-and-pastry reception for Coon. By the time it was her turn to speak, Coon had already worked her way through several tissues.
The reception was opened by remarks from Clark, who led a team of 50 fundraisers in efforts that originally brought Perry its DMACC satellite campus in 2011. The 16,000-square-foot facility received a cornerstone grant of $250,000 from the VanKirk family of Perry, but many smaller donations were also raised through Clark’s efforts as vice president of Perry Economic Development and general chair of the DMACC at Perry Capital Campaign.
Clark introduced a series of visitors who spoke in praise of Coon and her efforts at the VanKirk Career Academy, including Perry-Area Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Bob Wilson, Perry Mayor Jay Pattee and Perry Community School Superintendent Lynn Ubben.
All praised the high energy Coon brought to the director’s position, her successful efforts at partnering with the local schools and the Perry business community and her enrichment of the breadth and variety of course offerings at the VanKirk Career Academy.
The academy offers career and technical training to high school students during the day and college credit classes at night and on weekends. Along with her successful outreach to Tyson Fresh Meats with English as a Second Language (ESL) classes, Coon has built both the welding and criminal justice programs to the point of offering morning and afternoon classes.
An ag business program is also slated to start in the fall thanks to Coon’s efforts.
“I am so grateful to you for what you have done to make ESL classes accessible and affordable.” –Marlene Juarez
ESL Instructor Marlene Juarez of Perry thanked Coon for her efforts on behalf of the community’s Spanish-speaking population.
“I am so grateful to you for what you have done to make ESL classes accessible and affordable,” Juarez said. “You have made a huge difference in Perry, and I am going to miss you.”
DMACC President and Chief Economic Officer Robert J. Denson also used superlatives in praising Coon, and he assured the Perry community DMACC’s commitment to its Perry career academy is firm.
“Hollie was a superstar in the DMACC system even before she came to Perry,” Denson said, “but she sure showed us what she can do since she got here. And I always mention Perry first out of all our programs when I’m talking to groups. Perry is the point of light for Iowa. No one had been a better partner, and we will not let you down.”
Denson also noted celebrations are planned for DMACC’s 50th anniversary July 18. Iowa’s largest community college system offers 168 programs, certificates and transfer degrees, serving a student body of more than 75,000 members.
Coon was visibly moved by the tributes to her efforts in Perry. She thanked her well wishers for their support during her tenure here.
“The fall looks great,” she said. DMACC’s Career Advantage Program and the Perry Promise Scholarship Program, also spearheaded by Clark, are producing excellent results, she said. She said she was humbled by the turnout at the reception and grateful to the community partners who support the DMACC Perry VanKirk Career Academy programs.
“I won’t be very far away from Perry,” she said, “so I’ll be around, and I’ll be here long enough to orient my replacement to all the Perry programs.”
Coon will move to the directorship of the DMACC Southridge Center. Prior to taking the helm in Perry, Coon served seven years as DMACC’s disabilities services coordinator for all DMACC campuses and centers. She also worked across the district with the development and implementation of the College Experience course.
Coon has also worked as an adjunct professor for Upper Iowa University and Iowa State University, teaching education courses to pre-kindergarten through 12th grade teachers.
She earned a bachelor’s degree from the University of Northern Iowa, a master’s degree in education from Drake University and a Ph.D. in education, with an emphasis in special education administration, from Capella University.
Coon lives in Bondurant with her husband, Craig, and sons Camden, 14, and Colin, 10.