This Friday evening, as part of our homecoming festivities, the Southeast Polk Hall of Honor will recognize and celebrate this year’s inductees.  The Hall of Honor was established in 2009 to recognize outstanding alumni, educators and community leaders who, through achievements, endeavors, leadership and character, are positive role models for the student body of Southeast Polk Community Schools.

The celebration will begin at 5 p.m. in the high school auditorium with the induction ceremony recognizing these outstanding individuals who have impacted our school and community in numerous ways.  After the reception and dinner, the guests of honor and their families will proceed to the stadium where they will be introduced at 6:30, prior to kickoff of the Homecoming football game. In addition, all members are recognized with a plaque placed on the SEP Hall of Honor wall at Southeast Polk High School.

We are proud to welcome these outstanding Southeast Polk citizens into our Hall of Honor:

  • Gary Fischer

  • Dr. Kenneth Sand

  • Don and Cheryl Timmins

  • Sharon Townsend


Gary R. Fischer

“Distinguished Alumni and Community Member”

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The importance of education, the life-long influence of exceptional teachers and the valuable lessons of participating in extracurricular activities was instilled in Gary at a young age.  Before moving to central Iowa, Gary’s father had been a teacher and coach in Cedar Rapids, Iowa where he coached a student to a national record in the shot put, numerous state records, some of which stand more than a half century later.  His dad’s coaching showed Gary extracurriculars as well as academics can teach the benefit of hard work and determination.  Gary while attending SEP was a member of the SEP Swim Team, was a local and national leader in Junior Achievement, played a lead role in a school play, was in the choir and a member of the concert, jazz and marching bands.

Gary was elected to three terms on the Southeast Pok School Board from 2009 to 2021. He values as friends his many fellow board members that while not 

always in agreement on issues, could disagree without being disagreeable.  His tenure on the Board was marked with great change, challenges and successes on multiple fronts, including winning the public’s supermajority bond vote securing the district’s future infrastructure needs while simultaneously navigating return to school during a global pandemic.  He is most proud that teachers and staff voted repeatedly to name SEP a Top Workplace in Iowa, one of the few school districts to receive such a high honor.

Gary’s met his wife, Jennifer (Freel)(Class of 82), who grew up in the Rising Sun area and attended Four Mile Elementary, in Kirk Brill’s Cell Biology class.  Jennifer’s father, Earl Freel, was on the first SEP School Board and her family all remained in the area.  When Gary was first elected to the board he had nieces, nephews, children and other family nearly in every grade K through 12.  Gary and Jennifer raised four children near Ivy, Evan (Class of 2012), Aleka (Class of 2016), Owen (Class of 2017) and Olivia (Class of 2020).

Gary, the son of James R. Fischer and Mary N. Engdahl, and brother David Fischer (SEP Class of 86), grew up in Altoona and attended Altoona Elementary.  Gary graduated Southeast Polk in 1983 and attended Central College in Pella where he received his Bachelor’s Degree in Economics and Political Science in 1987. He received his Doctor of Jurisprudence Degree in 1990 from Drake University Law School where he graduated with honors and was selected by the full panel of the Iowa Supreme Court for an advocacy award.  He practices law in Des Moines, representing clients in state and federal court.  He is a proud member of Southeast Polk’s community of communities.

Dr. Kenneth Sand

Image (41)Dr. Kenneth Sand joined the Southeast Polk School District as Superintendent in 1974 and remained until his retirement in 1991. Ken and his wife, Blanche, were parents of six children, five of whom graduated from Southeast Polk. Dr. Sand considered it a privilege to work with the dedicated Southeast Polk Team. Dr. Sand authored a publication “Sandscript,” which he used as a means to communicate with staff and faculty, both with information and humor. Dr. Sand noted in his final Sandscript, Successes in this school district have not been my successes. Ours is a highly-respected school system and it is the result of the total team effort.” He also recalled a statement, “All that is, is a teacher.” The staff all in some way contribute to the welfare and education, not only for our students, but also for those who partner with you in the common endeavor. 

Dr. Sand received his Bachelor of Science and Master of Science degrees at Peru State College in Peru, Nebraska. After college he was a teacher/coach in Auburn, Nebraska and Barneston, Nebraska, thereafter cosuperintendent in Eagle, Nebraska. After receiving his Doctorate of Education degree at the University of Nebraska, in 1966 he became the superintendent in Shenandoah, lowa, until being hired at Southeast Polk. 

Dr. Sand was a member and on the board of many professional organizations, including the National Education Association, American Association of School Administrators, lowa Association of School Administrators, School Administrators of lowa, Area 11 Superintendents Association, and the lowa High School 

Athletic Association Board of Control. Dr. Sand was also a member of many civic organizations, including the American Legion, Veterans of Foreign Wars, Chamber of Commerce, Kiwanis International, Altoona Lions Club, Mid-lowa Boy Scouts of America, Mitchellville Training School Advisory Board, Selective Service, the Altoona Campus, and the Polk County Aviation Authority Board. Dr. Sand was also a charter member of Lutheran Church of the Cross in Altoona. Dr. Sand did public speaking throughout the State of Iowa.

The one piece of wisdom Dr. Sand would pass along is “all a person has of any real and lasting value are family and friends.”

Don and Cheryl Timmins

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Don and Cheryl have been active members of the Southeast Polk Community since moving to Altoona in 1972. From the time their oldest child started kindergarten in 1973 to their youngest child’s graduation in 1992, they were strong supporters of both Southeast Polk athletics and fine arts, while also mentoring local students as leaders of the Altoona Hustling Herdsmen and Four Mile Lassies 4-H clubs. Don served many years on the Polk County 4-H and FFA Fair Board and both Don and Cheryl were long-time Superintendents at the County Fair.  Cheryl was an active member of the Southeast Polk Jr. Women’s Club whose mission was to support the Southeast Polk Schools.  Cheryl volunteered at the Elementary Schools and Don helped coach little league baseball and little girls softball. They have been active in many community organizations over the years.

In the 30 years since their children graduated, Don and Cheryl have continued their support in myriad ways. They’ve had active roles in the bond referendum to build the new high school in 2010, Don was one of the founding members of the Southeast Polk Education Foundation, and has served on the Southeast Polk FFA Advisory Board.  They were honored to serve as chaperones for the Southeast Polk FFA International Learning trip to China in 2019.


Sharon Townsend

Sharon Townsend Hall of Honor photo (1)Sharon Townsend has humbly, gracefully and generously served the Southeast Polk Community for over 40 years.

Sharon has been a champion of education, opportunity and the success and bright futures of Southeast Polk Students for generations. After moving to Altoona in the late 1970’s, she and her husband, the late Bob Townsend, quietly contributed to SE Polk Schools and the greater SEP Community by helping to build and establish initiatives and organizations that have had, and continue to have, a positive impact on Southeast Polk students, staff and families including Dollars for Scholars, Central Place, the Altoona Campus, and Caring Hands Outreach. 

Since Bob’s passing in 2010, Sharon has continued on to grow the legacy of giving and community service that they built together. Sharon, a former teacher, truly believes in the life-changing power of education. In 2014, she collaborated with Tom Hadden, Don Timmins and Dean O’Connor to found the Southeast Polk Education Foundation. She served on the board until 2021 where she helped develop and create the SEPEF Innovative Teacher Grants, and the SEPEF Endowment Fund. 

Sharon has always had a special place in her heart for Altoona Elementary where two of her grandson’s attended elementary and her youngest daughter, Becky volunteered and raised funds for the Altoona PTA helping the school and students. After Becky’s passing, Sharon had a statue commissioned, in Becky’s memory, to cheerfully and lovingly greet students and families as they enter the building. 

Sharon has been a strong supporter and perennial volunteer of Swerve Outreach and their Altoona Kids Cafe and Tools 4 School programs. She has helped to establish them as a local non-profit that provides healthy meals, educational opportunities and basic needs assistance to At-Risk and underserved youth in Eastern Polk County. Known to students, volunteers, and the community as “Grammy,” Sharon can be found every summer at Kids Cafe passing out the plates at lunchtime, always with a smile, hug and a kind word for everyone. 

In 2019,  Sharon collaborated with founders of WE GIVE A RAM to establish the annual We Give A RAM Kentucky Derby Party. To the delight of RAM Nation, this annual event raises funds and gives back into the community, in the spirit of the SEP RAMS!  

 These are only the things Sharon has done that we know about, as there is oh so much more. She will modestly tell you that she does very little, and knows no one, but that couldn’t be further from the truth. She is always willing to give in any way that she can to improve the life, education and prospects of a child in our community.  She has a way of sharing her light with everyone, building them up, and making them feel like they are the most important person in the world.  

Congratulations to each of this year’s inductees! You are all true Rams!