As the nation honors Black History Month, the City of Cedar Falls would like to recognize the impact local leaders of color have in our community every day. Discover more stories: Paul Lee- bit.ly/BHMPLee; Gwenne Berry- bit.ly/UNIgb; David Harris- bit.ly/BHMDHarris; Tanya Warren- bit.ly/TWuni.
On the gridiron, Jamar Thompson found success at the University of Northern Iowa. From 2007 to 2010, Thompson suited up as a member of the Panthers football team while earning his undergraduate degree in Business Marketing. He would eventually go on to complete his master's in Communications at UNI before pursuing his first career opportunity as the Affiliate Development Director at the Community Foundation of Northeast Iowa in 2012.
"I have always enjoyed interacting with people and building relationships," Thompson said. "I never wanted to be tied to a desk. Development work really suited that nicely as I was able to connect with people in the community who have the heart to give back and work with them to determine the best ways to make a difference."
Building on his student organization experience at UNI, Thompson's role at the Community Foundation involved working with counties in northeast Iowa to set up scholarships and teaming up with local volunteers to raise funds.
His early road was not without challenges.
"I am the first college graduate in my family and I believe education provides benefits in a variety of ways outside of the classroom," said Thompson. "You develop new methods and ways of thinking. With that opportunity, though, comes responsibility. When you obtain a position of leadership, especially as a person of color, you have to be vigilant because if you mess it up then the people that come after you bear that burden as well."
It was his commitment and passion for education that would eventually lead him back to where it started. In 2016, Thompson was hired as the Director of Development for UNI Athletics and the UNI Foundation. He would go on to serve as the Senior Director of Development before being named to his current position as the Associate Athletic Director for External Affairs in 2021.
"I don't think there is any greater joy than working for the place you went to school, especially in a role where you can move the needle and make things better for the next generation of students," said Thompson. "As a former player, I always knew I ultimately wanted to work in college athletics. To do it here at UNI and in Cedar Falls is a dream come true. I came to this school and this area because of the community. It felt like a family."
As Thompson works to make an impact for future leaders, both on and off the field, he looks forward to sharing the lessons he has learned along his own journey.
"You have to be confident in yourself and know what you can do. You can't let others dictate how you feel. Put the dedication and time in, be patient, and know that those things will come to fruition. It is your future and you cannot let the actions of others determine your path."