Mark Hawald Receives Hometown Hero Award

May 16, 2011

Mark HawaldThe American Red Cross Alliance-Minerva Area Chapter honored Mark Hawald, the University of Mount Union’s head wrestling coach, with a Hometown Hero Award on Saturday during its annual Hometown Heroes Award Breakfast.
The American Red Cross Hometown Hero Award is given to local residents who have acted courageously and selflessly in a time of emergency and to those who have acted in a heroic manner by reaching out to help others in times of greatest need. The idea behind the award is that these individuals should be ordinary people who have shown extraordinary courage, compassion and unselfish character as well as a high degree of personal initiative and responsibility by their acts of heroism within the past two years. For these specific reasons, Michelle Gaffney, assistant dean of students and director of housing and residence life at Mount Union felt compelled to nominate Hawald for this award.
As head wrestling coach, Hawald was on the bus carrying the wrestling team, coaches, statisticians, an athletic trainer and athletic training students returning to campus following a match at Ohio Northern University, which was involved in an accident with an Ohio Department of Transportation snowplow. Dan Gorman, director of athletic training and associate professor of human performance and sport business, was fatally injured in the crash. 
In his nomination letter, Gaffney noted how on the evening of January 11, Hawald did not set out to be a hero, but due to the very unexpected turn the night took, a hero is exactly what he became.
“As a result of that one moment, Mark was faced with the tragic death of Dan Gorman thereby bringing with it the sudden and immediate and personal loss of a valued friend, colleague and mentor,” she said. “Being so far from campus, Mark was forced to take the lead on his end. Mark was there for those individuals – he cared for them, he comforted them and he guided them through the pain and emotions that come along with that kind of traumatic event.
“I thought it very appropriate to nominate Mark Hawald in recognition of his compassion and leadership in assisting those students with whom he works, both through the immediate situation that they faced back in January as well as for his continued efforts to guide those affected through the aftermath of all that one experiences after a tragedy of that nature,” noted Gaffney. “And, at the same time, he was dealing with the loss of a friend and colleague himself.”
Shortly after the accident, Hawald penned a letter to the University of Mount Union community which touched all who read it and served to further demonstrate his strength of character and begin the healing process for all those impacted by the loss of Dan Gorman. According to Gaffney, Hawald’s leadership both during the course of that night and throughout the months that have followed has been inspirational to the students with whom he works. In fact, the Mount Union wrestling team achieved an undefeated season that culminated in the Ohio Athletic Conference Championship title and an 8th place finish in the NCAA Division III National Championships, matching the best ever finish for the Mount Union wrestling team.
“So, while I am sure Mark Hawald would probably not consider himself a hero,” Gaffney said. “I am quite sure that others would agree that this year, in the aftermath of unspeakable tragedy, Mark has shown extraordinary courage and is, in fact, an everyday hero to the students with whom he works.”
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