DONNELLSON, IOWA — The Central Lee Community School District has announced the 2021 inductees to its Academic Hall of Fame.

This year, the Hall of Fame is honoring a district judge and two longtime educators, who each served Central Lee students for decades. 

The Academic Hall of Fame was created as a means of recognizing, preserving and promoting Central Lee's rich history and tradition of excellence in academics. It emphasizes the importance of high-achieving graduates and former staff members who made a big impact on the school community during their time in Central Lee. 

“Over the course of generations, our students have excelled in countless ways in our classrooms and out in the world after graduation. Many have returned to Central Lee to share their talents with the next generation of students,” said Dr. Andy Crozier, CLCSD Superintendent. “We are incredibly proud of our alumni and thrilled to have the opportunity to honor them through our Academic Hall of Fame. This year, we have one inductee who graduated during the Great Depression, one during the 1960s and another in 1999. We look forward to celebrating these individuals and honoring their achievements together.”

Inductee Justin Lightfoot is a 1999 Central Lee graduate who serves as a district judge for the state of Iowa, appointed by Governor Kim Reynolds in March 2021. Prior to his appointment, he was a federal prosecutor with the U.S. Department of Justice, where he was chief of the Criminal Prosecution Division for the Northern District of Iowa.  

After graduating from Iowa State University with a degree in Political Science and Criminal Justice Studies, Lightfoot attended the University of Iowa College of Law, graduating in the top 10 percent of his class. While at Central Lee, he played several sports and placed at state academic competitions for Science Fair, Invention Convention and Future Problem Solving. Lightfoot now lives in Cedar Rapids with his wife and two children. 

Also inducted this year is Victor Spohnheimer, a 1933 Donnellson High School graduate. Spohnheimer began his education in the one-room country school, No. 2, north of Donnellson. He contracted polio while attending Parson’s College, but was able to make up his missed coursework to graduate on time, magna cum laude, with a bachelor’s degree in math and science. He then earned a master’s degree in botany from the University of Iowa and embarked on a 42-year teaching career while also farming and raising a family.  

Spohnheimer spent 19 years at Central Lee High School, where he taught algebra, geometry, trigonometry, analytical geometry and calculus. 

A graduate of the class of 1967, Ernie Schiller has also been inducted into the Academic Hall of Fame this year. Schiller received a bachelor’s degree in science teaching from Iowa State University, beginning his career in Farmington, Iowa. He then returned to Central Lee to teach biology, advanced biology, botany and research science. 

Schiller was named Iowa Teacher of the Year in 2004. Upon his retirement, he served two terms on the Lee County Board of Supervisors. He founded the Rebuild Nepal Education Foundation, an organization dedicated to help those in the most remote mountainous villages of Nepal. 

Families, staff, alumni and community members are encouraged to nominate individuals for Hall of Fame recognition. A committee then reviews all nominations and determines each year's inductees. Central Lee also has Athletic and Fine Arts Halls of Fame.

For individuals to qualify for a nomination, they must have graduated from Central Lee schools or have been a staff member. They also must be at least five years removed from their time in the district. The nomination form is available at https://bit.ly/CLHOFNomination