Hall of Honor Inductees


Criteria for Honoring an Outstanding Citizen

  • Must be a patron/benefactor/community leader of the Southeast Polk Community School District or the Southeast Polk community and have contributed to their community in an exemplary manner. award may be given posthumously.
  • Must demonstrate leadership, character, and service to their local community and be a positive role model and person of character for community members and Southeast Polk students to emulate.
  • Must achieve outstanding success in business, athletics, education, the arts, humanitarian efforts, community service or other endeavors.

Criteria for Honoring an Alumnus

  • an alumnus of Southeast Polk who, through various endeavors, is a positive role model for the student body and has been graduated from Southeast Polk for 10 years or more. award may be given posthumously.
  • Must have contributed to his or her community in an exemplary manner by demonstrating leadership, character, and service to their local community and/or profession.
  • Must have achieved outstanding success in business, athletics, academics, education, the arts, humanitarian efforts, community service or other endeavors.
  • Must be a role model that current and future generations of Southeast Polk Community School students can emulate.

Criteria for Honoring a Southeast Polk Employee

  • Must have taught or been an administrator at Southeast Polk Community Schools for 10 years or more. award may be given posthumously.
  • Must be recognized as being a positive role model and person of character and have demonstrated leadership.
  • Must have been recognized as being a person of uncommon dedication, going beyond the call of duty to assist students, staff and/or parents.
  • Must have retired or resigned before being considered for nomination.
Inaugural Hall of Honor Inductees – September 25, 2009
THE FIRST SEP BOARD OF EDUCATION/TREASURER – a district is born
After a contentious 10 year battle and two Iowa Supreme Court decisions, the Southeast Polk Community School District was formed in 1961. A group of citizens agreed to provide representation to the five areas involved in the fledgling district,the townships of Beaver (Mitchellville), Camp (Runnells), Clay (Altoona), and Four Mile. Those selected in the first election, though chosen “at large”, did represent all five of the township areas: Ed Fox from
Delaware, Avis Eckel from Mitchellville, Robert Skinner from Runnells, James Irish from Altoona, and Dorr Beattie from Four Mile all served on the inaugural board. These five helped set the stage for a district that, 48 years later, is the 12th largest district in the state of Iowa.
Earl Freel, first treasurer of the school district, served the district for nearly 40 years.
ROGER MAHNKE – a lifetime of service
Mahnke started his career at the Southeast Polk school district in 1964 as a principal at
Altoona Elementary. Later he moved to Centennial Elementary and ultimately to the Southeast Polk district office, where he served as assistant superintendent until his retirement in 1992. Mahnke was instrumental in forming the first scholarship programs at SEP in the 1980s. His interest in helping students who desire to continue their education after high school continued after his retirement, when je joined the SEP Dollars for Scholars board of directors, serving as chairman in 2009. One of Mahnke’s favorite activities was working on the chain crew for the Rams’ home football games where he served on the crew for 26 years.
SHON MORRIS – exceptional student athlete
Shon Morris graduated in 1984 from SEP, where he was an outstanding student-athlete and member of the National Honor Society. A three-time All-Central Iowa Conference basketball player, he scored 1,274 points and grabbed 698 rebounds in his career. Morris was an all-state selection as a junior and senior and was named MVP at the Iowa North-South All-Star game as a senior. He attended Northwestern University in Illinois, where he graduated cum laude in 1988. Morris was named MVP for his final three seasons, where he led the team in scoring and rebounding all three years. He was named Northwestern Male
Athlete of the year in 1987 and 1988 and received the Big Ten Medal of Honor as a senior in 1988. He finished his basketball career as the third-leading scorer and fourth-leading rebounder in school history and was named one of the top five players in Northwestern basketball history by the Chicago Tribune in 1995. Morris was a three-time Academic All-Big Ten selection; made second team Academic All-American in 1986 and was first team Academic All-American in 1987 and 1988.
ED AND LOIS SKINNER – community leaders
Ed and Lois Skinner have been active contributors to the Southeast Polk Community School District since it was formed in 1963. Ed served on the Southeast Polk School Board for nine years and was chairman of the committee to acquire the artificial turf for the football field. He formed the James P. Irish Law Scholarship for Southeast Polk students who attend the Drake University Law School. Ed and Lois were instrumental in getting the bond issue passed for the new Southeast Polk High School in 2006. They were active in forming the original SEP scholarship fund and are presently active in the SEP Dollars for Scholars program. They have been substantial contributors to the scholarship funds, artificial turf fund, and many other Southeast Polk activities. Lois has served on the Dollars for Scholars committee since it's inception. Both have been extremely active in the political arena and are on many boards and committees for the betterment of the Southeast Polk School District and community.
ROBERT T. TOWNSEND – friend of education
Robert Townsend is a lifelong resident of Altoona. He is president of Townsend Industries, Inc., a corporation founded in 1951 which manufactures and distributes printing equipment throughout the world. Townsend was one the founders of the Altoona State Band and Adventureland Resort and has been a strong supporter of many local organizations, causes and the Southeast Polk Community School District.
CHARLES S. VARNER – innovative educational leader (honored posthumously)
Charles Varner was the first superintendent of the schools for the Southeast Polk Community School District, serving from1961 until his retirement in 1974. Varner played a big role unifying the Southeast Polk community and building a strong and innovative school system. Varner was an educational leader who instituted innovations such as modular scheduling, free books, bus service to the entire district, financial accountability and modern curriculum innovations. Southeast Polk High School was named the outstanding high school in the nation in 1965. Varner was named Superintendent Emeritus in 1984.
JEAN BARTELMA – advocate of music education (honored posthumously)
Jean Bartelma was a music teacher at Mitchellville and Runnels in the Southeast Polk district as well a having 33 years of teaching including stops at Greenfield and Clear Lake. Bartelma was a gracious person of strong character with an amazing work ethic and a great musical talent. She was a dedicated choral leader, pianist and piano instructor in the Runnells community, school and church for many years. Bartlema loved working with students and often utilized music to help keep troubled youngsters in school. She became a mentor to many.
BOB LARSON – compassionate educator (honored posthumously)
Bob Larson served the Southeast Polk community as a principal at Runnells Elementary for
four years and at Centennial Elementary for 25 years. He also served as director of Special Education for the school district. While serving as principal at Centennial, Larson campaigned for a street to be built on the east side of Centennial to ensure the safety of the students.
The street was completed and name “Bob Larson Avenue” in honor of the man who had a big heart and cared deeply about each of his students.
2010 Hall of Honor Inductees
NEAL & BEA SMITH -“Influential in forming Southeast Polk School District”
Neal served in the armed forces during World War II receiving a purple heart. Smith served in the U.S House of Representatives from 1959 to 1995. Bea was a long time head of the Congressional Wives Club in Washington. Both Smiths were involved in the formation of the SEP School District in addition to Bea a big supporter of Central Place. A wildlife refuge in Prairie City is named after Neal and the Drake University Law Center is named after both the Smiths.
JOHN & MARIE CARTER -“Catalysts for Dollars for Scholars”
John and Marie served the town of Mitchellville and the Southeast Polk School District for many years with John serving as the original attorney for SEP, never requesting payment for his services. Marie served as Superintendent of the Mitchellville Training School for girls at the age of 24. The Southeast Polk School District was the sole beneficiary of their estate with 60% of the trust income awarded annually to students at Southeast Polk.
BEVERLY & MICHAEL HORTON -“School and Community Leaders”
Beverly has been a leading voice in the Southeast Polk Booster Club since 1963. She tirelessly worked on committees to pass Southeast Polk bond issues and referendums and spearheaded development of first-class athletic facilities. She was recognized as Iowa Volunteer of the Year in 2007. Michael was Director of Vocational Education at Southeast Polk and founder of the Iowa Industrial Technology Exposition in its current form. He originated the trade and industrial cooperative education programs and the girls golf program. He has
been a long-time sports reporter for the Altoona Herald, and served as the voice of Ram wrestling and football for more than 30 years. He is also a member of the Johnston High School Alumni Hall of Fame.
BOBBY G. NORRIS -“Dedicated, Energetic and Caring Leader”
Mr. Norris served as football coach, vice principal and principal at SEP from 1965 to 1989, receiving highest honor for an administrator by the Iowa High School Athletic Union. He was a dedicated leader instituting the Honors Breakfast, Graduation Row, All-Sports and Activities Banquet and many other innovative courses and programs. Mr. Norris is also a member of the Simpson College Hall of Fame.
KERMIT TANNATT-“Superlative Athletic Director”
Mr. Tannat served as the first director of Athletics and Physical Education at SEP, working with architects in the planning of the athletics and physical education facilities. He was instrumental in hosting the first Iowa High School Girls State Track and Field Meet at SEP. In addition, he was a charter member and second President of the Iowa High School Athletic Directors Association. In 1978 Tannatt was named Iowa Athletic Director of the Year, Regional finalist and National 2nd place Athletic Director. He is also member of the Simpson College Hall of Fame.
2011 Hall of Honor Inductees
BILL ORCUTT - "Academic Leader"
Bill Orcutt worked in public education for 38 years where he served as principal at the elementary, middle school and high school levels. Orcutt was the Southeast Polk High School principal from 1992 to 2002 where he demonstrated a strong interest in improving instruction in the classroom. Orcutt encouraged and supported students in their academic work as well as their involvement in athletics and school activities.  Orcutt consistently administered the policies for the district for all students and staff members.
BOB SUTTON - "Superlative Principal"
Bob Sutton served the Southeast Polk Community School District from 1968 to 1998. Sutton started his career at Southeast Polk as an elementary physical education teacher and coach. Sutton coached boys basketball, football, and track; spent many years accompanying students to Special Olympics; and officiated boys and girls basketball for 15 years. Sutton spent most of his career at Southeast Polk as a principal at Runnells Elementary, Altoona Elementary, and Four-Mile Elementary before his retirement in 1998. He was instrumental in starting the Dollars for Scholars program at Southeast Polk, serving as treasurer since the program was initiated.
GARY AND SHERRYLYNN BEATTIE - "Lifetime SEP Boosters"
Gary and Sherrylynn Beattie are graduates, parents of graduates and grandparents of students at Southeast Polk High School and have been involved with the Southeast Polk school district since it's inception. The Beatties have served the community through employing students and graduates; participation in parent associations and booster club; taking photos of student activities; and financial support of many Southeast Polk organizations and causes.
KIRK BRILL - "Educator - Environmentalist"
Kirk Brill spent his entire teaching career at Southeast Polk where he started teaching junior high science in 1965 and later moved to the high school where he was a leader in science education.  Brill was voted Biology Teacher of the Year in Iowa in 1973 and was selected Conservation Teacher of the Year in 1974.  Brill formed the Southeast Polk Ecology Club late in the 1960s.  The club earned many honors for their work, their biggest accomplishment being saving Brown's Woods which was made a county park in 1972.  Brill, who retired in 1997, created several advanced science courses at Southeast Polk including College Biology, Medical Health, Cell Biology, Microbiology and Environmental Problems.
PENNY BURNETT - "SEP Career Educator"
Penny Burnett served her entire teaching career at Southeast Polk High School where she taught English and served as a guidance counselor.  Burnett was instrumental in the formation of the Southeast Polk National Honor Society in 1965 and the organization is named the Penny Burnett Chapter in her honor.  As a student at Dallas Center High School and Drake University, Burnett excelled in the areas of academics, music, speech, drama, writing and leadership.  She was called "a friend with a winning smile."Burnett left a share of her estate to the students at Southeast Polk.  Her Penny Burnett Charitable Trust has awarded $276,700 to 81 Southeast Polk graduates to date.  Her dignified battle with cancer ended her career abruptly in 1982.