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Honoring Hank: Ames High School alumni petition to name auditorium after drama teacher

Former drama teacher Wayne Hank Hansen served as an inspiration, mentor and friend to all his students, several Ames High alumni said.

AMES, Iowa — For more than three decades, drama teacher Wayne "Hank" Hansen made Ames High School a better place. 

Now, a group of former Ames High drama students are working to carry out his legacy by petitioning to get the new auditorium named in his honor. 

Hansen taught drama for 33 years before retiring in 2003. He passed away in 2020. 

Even though he's gone, the memories are still very much alive. 

"Mr. Hansen was getting to have a teacher that was a friend and a mentor you know," said former student Andrew Hoiberg. "Teachers come and go but people like Mr. Hansen hold a special place in a lot of hearts because of that interaction you had with him."

Hoiberg, who graduated high school in 1997, said he only experienced Hank as a teacher for one year, but it was a year that helped define his life.

During his senior year, he gave up running on the track team, auditioned for a play and landed the lead.

"As a result of that, I really got more interested in the artistic side of life which is all of the things I'm still involved with today," Hoiberg said.

Another of Hansen's students, Tracey Stoll, said having a building named after Hansen would be the ultimate token of appreciation for the former drama teacher. 

"He exacted professionalism from all the cast and crew," Stoll said. "He treated us like adults, like we were capable of this and there was never a question about it."

Victoria Van Voorhis, who was a student of Hansen's from 1970 to 1973, said the productions he helped the students put together were top-notch and could rival professional ones. 

She also said Hansen made everyone who walked into his classroom feel like they belonged.

 "He was so inclusive of everyone, [it] didn't matter who you were," Van Voorhis said. 

This group of alumni, along with other former students, have created an online petition to get the new auditorium named after the drama teacher. As of Wednesday, more than 1,700 have signed. 

They've also sent in testimonials to the school board about why a name change would be a good idea and spoken at school board meetings on this topic.

Despite their efforts, the group has not received any word back from school officials on whether a name change would be made.

Local 5 received the following statement from the Ames Community School District communications director, Eric Smidt, about the petition and the renaming process: 

"We are aware of community members asking the school board to consider naming the auditorium at our new Ames High School in honor of Hank Hansen. Many have emailed the district and school board, as well as spoken during the public forum of our school board meetings. This topic is governed by school board policy 801.5, which you can find on our website. The topic is under review, however, no immediate recommendation will be made quite yet. Our focus right now is to get the school year started for all of our students and to open our brand new high school." 

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