50 Notable Alumni

Derrick Aikman

Co-Owner, The Bread Company, Urbana, Illinois

Associate in Applied Science



Derrick grew up in Champaign, graduating from Unit 4 schools and serving in the Navy before earning his degree at Parkland College. He says “There is so much pressure to incur a lot of debt and pursue an impractical major at a big university. Instead, what worked best for me was getting a practical degree in business management that could partner with the real world experience I had growing up in a family business. I was better prepared.”

Derrick earned an additional degree at the Divers Institute of Technology in Seattle, Washington in 2001, where he quickly earned a leadership position as class president.

In his subsequent ten-year career as an inland commercial diver, he worked on projects that involved underwater welding, pouring cement, reverse currents and electricity, nuclear power plants, fish barriers, and fast moving river currents and low visibility. He worked on high profile jobs such as repairing the levies after they broke in New Orleans during Hurricane Katrina and an arts installation beneath the Brooklyn Bridge in New York Harbor. In Chicago, he was employed by Lindahl Marine and in New York City he was employed by Seaway Diving Company.

After his incredibly risky and high pressure career in underwater construction, he and his wife are back in Urbana and continuing the business Derrick’s parents started, The Bread Company, which has served the community for over 35 years. Since taking the reins, Derrick has revitalized the restaurant and makes a concerted effort to hire local Parkland students and graduates. Because of his leadership and emphasis on teaching and learning, many employees with no prior training in the culinary arts or exposure to a working kitchen go on to pursue careers in this field.

Derrick also participates in Champaign’s Unit 4 Summer Youth Employment Program (SYEP). The mission of the program is to build bridges to meaningful employment for Champaign’s youth. The Bread Company became an active partner in the program in the summer of 2015, employing six Champaign youth and hiring one permanently to the staff.

Derrick’s most memorable moment at Parkland was “coming back to Parkland as an adult student I enrolled in a speech class where the instructor had such a great attitude. Something clicked in me during that class and I finally understood what college was all about. Parkland is great for both the young traditional student as well as the older returning student – I know because I was both of those at Parkland.”