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Alumni weekend: NHS inducts five cardinals into hall of fame

When Carol Lee Spellman Saunders, M.D. took to the podium Saturday morning at Newton High School, she had the shortest speech of any of the 2018 NHS Hall of Fame inductees. But the class of 1953 alum’s brief acceptance still carried the weight of the moment.

“I went into pediatrics as partial payback for winning the world’s greatest lottery,” she said. “By being born in America, especially and specifically, in Newton, Iowa with wonderful parents, teachers and friends.”

Dr. Spellman Saunders lettered in Thespians, was a member of all-state orchestra and Orchestra Concert Master while at NHS, among other distinctions. As a female med student in the 1950s, earning her Doctor of Medicine from the University of Iowa came with its own set of obstacles.

When Newton City Councilman Mark Hallam introduced Spellman Saunders at the HOF brunch and ceremony in the NHS gymnasium, he read a quote from the doctor’s HOF nomination papers, submitted by her classmate, that put those challenges into perspective.

“While completing all those postgraduate and professional endeavors, it’s important to remember she still had three children — born in 1963, 1964 and 1967,” the classmate wrote. “In addition to her professional responsibilities and her husband Dr. John Saunders, raising three sons, Carol Lee always found the time to serve on numerous boards and task forces for the betterment of the lives of all children.”

The NHS Hall of Fame was established in 2014 as a formal way to recognize individuals and organizations that have made exceptional achievements in their field, significant contributions to NHS or unique contributions to their communities at local, state national or international levels.

The four other inductees Saturday include former NHS athletic director and retired assistant principal Bruce Hoffmeier, former Maytag Company President Fred Maytag II, class of 1990 student-athlete Jason McCleary and class of 1951 starting quarterback Dick Starr.

Along with his work with the Iowa High School Athletic Association and Foundation Director of Skiff Medical Center, Hoffmeier is an avid blood donor. According to NHS principal Bill Peters, the high school had 16 student donors of distinction in 2018, more blood per person than any school in the state of Iowa. Hoffmeier said he remembered the student enthusiasm when the NHS blood donor program first began in the late 1990s.

“That year I’d earned my two-gallon pin, so I wore it. At lunch that day, these kids walked by and one of the girls who had given blood looked at my pin and said, ‘you gave two gallons? I’ve never given more than a pint at a time.’”

Fred Maytag II’s award was accepted by Thombert, Inc. CEO and family friend Walt Smith. He recounted Maytag’s list of contributions to the Newton community, including the Maytag Family Foundation.

“Fred was an Eagle Scout, one of Newton’s first,” Smith said. “In fact, Fred was a Scout all his life. I see it in everything he did at the Maytag Company. He lived by the Scout Oath and Scout laws every day of his life.”

McCleary was a Des Moines Register second team all-state running back and Iowa Newspaper Association second team all-state defensive back for NHS.

Ed Ergenbright, current NHS head football coach, was McCleary’s special teams coach in 1990. He said nothing was a bigger indicator of McCleary’s athletic ability than his consistent record times on the pro-agility drill.

“The time won’t mean anything to you, but to give it perspective, Nick Easley, who is also one of our Newton Cardinals and current starting slot receiver for the Iowa Hawkeyes, this spring ran the fastest pro-agility of any Iowa Hawkeye ever. It happened to be the same time that Jason McCleary ran four times as a high school senior. That’s pretty amazing.”

McCleary said the award and his life are blessings.

“I would like to thank God. He blessed me with a loving and supportive family that was always there for me; he blessed me with great friends; he blessed by with great coaches; he blessed me with great teammates; he blessed me with great fans full of Red Pride; and he blessed me with being a Newton Cardinal,” McCleary said.

When he arrived at the podium Saturday, Starr told the alumni crowd he was in fifth grade when he told his physical education teacher, Ms. Matthews his dream was to be the quarterback of Newton High School. She told him one thing — “you better practice.”

“I grew up on the east side, across the street from Emerson Hough. There was a football field with some goal posts, there was a basket and that’s where we lived. We were out there all the time,” he said. “The Newton Cardinals would play on Friday night and Saturday morning there was a gang of guys playing football on the field at Emerson Hough.”

The brunch also doubled 135th annual meeting of the Newton Alumni Association. President Lisa McKinney presided, calling for votes on this year’s elected officers and announced the winners of 2018 class window decorating contests, which could be seen throughout downtown Newton storefronts last weekend.

Most original went to the class of 1993; most nostalgic the class of 1968; and best overall the class of 1978.

Peter began the brunch with two videos — one an 8mm film of the Newton’s 1963 Iowa High School State Football victory parade, and the other a production by current NHS students interviewing accomplished Newton alumni living throughout the world.

Before the ceremony closed Saturday with the NHS Loyalty Song and before introducing the HOF inductees, Peters presented the alumni with some numbers and highlights of NHS today. He touted the 1,000 hours of community service students gave during Red Pride Service Day and the $2.2 million in scholarships earned by the 2018 graduating seniors, to name a few.

Peters also gave the alumni a snapshot of 2018 seniors last day of school, a moment that he said signifies Cardinal pride.

“As I was writing my speech for graduation, I was looking out my window,” Peters said. “Here I see all these all-state basketball players, all-state football, all-state dancers, student council kids who could be anywhere. People follow these kids, cameras follow these kids. They should, they do a lot. It’s the last day of school, so the seniors should be long gone... but they’re working with our special needs class. They’re holding hands, blowing bubbles and laughing so hard until they can’t stand it. I’ll tell you, that is what being a Newton Cardinal is all about.”

Contact Mike Mendenhall at

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