Wayne "Hank" Hansen, 80, of Ames, Iowa, passed away at Mary Greeley Medical Center in Ames, Friday, September 25, 2020. A visitation will be held on Wednesday, September 30, 2020, 4:00-6:00 p.m. at Grandon Funeral and Cremation Care, 414 Lincoln Way, Ames, Iowa.
Hank was born on September 16, 1940 in Manilla, Iowa, to William and Elizabeth (Vehrs) Hansen. Hank was a graduate of Manilla High School (class of 1958) and Iowa State Teachers College (now the University of Northern Iowa). Hank started his teaching career in Hampton, Iowa, and then moved to Ames where, for 30 years, he taught Speech and English and built the Theater Arts and Drama program and established the program's standard of excellence.
All involved with the Ames High School theater program, from cast and crew to the audience members who attended the shows, are forever indebted to Hank for his leadership. Hank remained a passionate supporter of theater and the fine arts throughout his life.
Left to cherish Hank's memory are his sister Madelyn; brothers Marlin, Roger, and Gary; and a long list of others who were touched by Hank's humor and kindness. Hank's family has been especially appreciative of the love and attention provided by Bob and Carla Uetz and Dick and Jan Schneider, who were incredible in their support in recent years following some significant health challenges for Hank.
Hank is preceded in death by his parents, William and Elizabeth Hansen; brothers, Delmar, Ralph, Glen, and Larry; and sisters, Lois and Colleen.
In accordance with his wishes, Hank was cremated. In lieu of flowers, Hank's family asks that memorial contributions be made to the drama and theater program at Ames High School or to your local theater program's foundation, in recognition of Hank's passion for theater and the fine arts everywhere.
Online condolences may be directed to www.grandonfuneralandcremationcare.com
Mr. Hansen is an incredible teacher who left his legacy with every single one of his students that he taught. I've been thinking a lot of him lately, primarily in the past 2 months. I wanted him to know how much he meant to me and how much he mentored me and shaped by interactions. I think of his teachings on a daily basis. When I am feeling sad or upset, I think of his hilarious quirky humor; I think of him throwing a rubber chicken, or listening to classical music while we worked, or slamming books down next to kids who had drifted off to sleep. He is an amazing person and his legacy will always live on. -Lavonne McRoberts-Pauley
I’m one of the silly AHS kids who did not take advantage of participating in drama. But I never missed a performance. EVERYONE at Ames High knew Hank and he was a legend! Some men go through like and wonder their impact on others. Hank never had those thoughts. Just reading the tributes below shows Hanks impact long after his students left AHS. Thanks Hank for enriching my life and my fellow classmates.
I just want to say thank you Hank. For believing in me when I was an awkward 15 year old kid who didn’t even know how to believe in myself; and helping to learn how to have more confidence in myself. I’m thankful I had you as a teacher. And thanks for helping me learn to listen to my instincts. Prayers and condolences to the family.
Hank taught me, directed me and guided me in theatre arts 1970-1973 at Ames High. I want to share with you that he was the very best teacher I ever had. I found a second home in his classroom, challenge and joy in the work we did together, and a path in life that I have followed to this day. He trusted me when I didn't know if I could trust myself, supported me and let me know that it might be possible have a life in the theatre: a world of thought,emotions, poetry, wisdom, folly, delight, great beauty and always, always, always great joy. All this I owe to this most generous and inspiring teacher. I cannot attend this service in person, but I will always carry Hank's influence and inspiration with me. Thank you, Mr. Hansen. God speed.
Hank was entirely invested in his students and creating a path of pursuing excellence in any endeavor his student pursued. He wasn't keen on cutting people slack for second best efforts. Hank taught me the importance of getting out of yourself to present the message of the author. How fortunate I was to learn this skill set. My adult opportunity for theater has been in church productions. Thanks Hank for setting a high standard, for your commitment to your students and for having an infectious sense of humor. You will be missed.
We love you Wayne and will miss your Sunday morning phone call. Most of all we will miss your sense of humor and your wonderful laugh. You were the best of the best. Or as Roger says, you were the best of a bad lot. You were one of a kind and will never be replaced in our lives. Love you, Roger (brother) and Jean
Hank was kind of a second dad for me at AHS. Hank was a kind soul who was always there to share a laugh or two. I worked with Hank as his substitute teacher from time to time and I cherish the lessons of life and a new way to look at the world. I miss him and I know he will always be on that grand theatre stage in my heart.
Hank! “Go home!” Said with a bellowing baritone! That was Hank’s voice to his student crew whose sense of belonging was lead by this larger than life teacher and mentor. Hank made common the rare chances to receive formative moments as an AHS teenager. My theater lineage is complicated but surely has roots under his tuteluge. Hank’s attraction to us all was the conviction that Like him, life reflected through theater was strange and wonderful. He was. I’m one of many who found my own life in the theater. He may have taken a road less traveled, as a high school theater director, but I’ll count myself lucky that he did. A giant in more ways than one, ‘go home’ Hank. Thanks for all that is strange and wonderful. A life in the tester well lived.
We loved him.
He taught us, encouraged us, disciplined us, gave us joy, and we had a blast!
Thank you to everyone for these amazing memories and kind words and condolences for Hank and his family, who over the years was known in our family as "Wayne the Brain the Spider, alias Uncle Jack", evolving into "Uncle Bubba." We look forward to meeting anyone able to attend for any amount of time on Wednesday, and certainly understand in these times if you may not be able to attend.
Hank was my teacher and drama coach and directed me on stage as an actor and mentored me as a director. But my fondest, gauziest, memories of time with Hank from high school were the early and often hot weekend mornings spent hauling and shoveling manure to help him plant a rose garden in his back yard. Probably not totally appropriate to use his students as day laborers in retrospect, but I was happy to be challenged and lucky he saw something in me that compelled him to dare me to show up and put in the extra effort. This extended to the stage as well: He made long-shot bets on me several times and then turned my crank hard, developing the discipline, depth, and skill to ensure I wouldn’t let him down. Important lessons that have stuck with me and shaped the way I have mentored, managed, parented. Hank taught thousands of students over a long and prolific career, so I’m sure I am not unique in having had this experience. But over 20 years later I’m still hearing Hank in the back of my mind and in my own words — “work harder, do better, think about this more seriously, practice will pay off” — profoundly often. I’m lucky to have wandered into his classroom as a freshman and had the gumption to return as a senior. A special guy, Hank will be in my memory forever. My deepest condolences to his family, and those whose lives were similarly touched by his influence.
Hank added a special sense of humor to our lives at Ames High—especial during faculty meetings. When he gave me a hug, it seemed like he was four feet taller than I. He was a very unique, talented, caring man. I am sorry I am not able to attend his memorial because of Covid-19 concerns. Sincerely, Rose Wilcox, retired Business teacher
I was fortunate enough to attend drama classes taught by Mr. Hansen at Ames High School. He had a wonderful combination of genuine encouragement and suffer-no-fools honesty.
On the former point, he always pushed us to improve. To revise the sketch one more time, to try another pass at the improv game. To find a way to reinforce the best elements of a struggling student's work. He helped many of us at a crucial moment in our artistic development.
On the latter point: we all dreaded (and secretly hoped) that his frustration with us would occasionally reach a boil, because when that happened, he would gesture us over to his desk, where he would open his bottom drawer and suddenly smack us with a rubber chicken. This happened so often (in part because it cracked us up and he knew it did) that he had to play with the suspense to keep the joke fresh. How long before he would open the drawer? How long until that chicken thwopped us in the head? He always knew exactly how to play it to make us all bust out laughing.
It was that ability to appreciate both the seriousness and the absurdity of drama that made his classroom so memorable. My thoughts are with his family and friends during this time.
Hank was "that teacher" for me in high school. You know, the individual who connected directly with you, challenged you to raise your standards for the work, encouraged you to make a REAL commitment, and modeled what it was you were being taught.
When I auditioned for a play in my sophomore year, I was a teenager in search of a direction for my life. Over the rest of my high school career, Hank played an out-sized role in my education. His passion for the theatre was plainly evident as was his commitment to professionalism and to high standards for our work and for our lives as humans. He had a marvelous gift for teaching a wide variety of skills, like acting, design, scenic painting, lighting, and costuming, while simultaneously giving students significant responsibility and a feeling of real ownership of the work we were doing. In brief, Hank was able to guide us while letting us feel that he was setting us loose.
I graduated from Ames High and went on to study theatre in college, earning a BA and then an MFA in Lighting Design. I am very fortunate to have had a sustained career as a professional designer, completing over 300 professional productions in theatres across the country.
My career has been filled with interesting projects, countless collaborative relationships, a huge amount of hard work, trials, tribulations, successes and great joy. All of this is in no small part due to to Wayne Hansen. I have thought of Hank and what he taught me at least every month since my graduation in 1975. Thanks Hank!
I graduated with Wayne from Manilla High School, class of 1958. He was always the kindness, caring young man even way back then. Both our families knew each other very well.
Sincerest Condolences to Wayne's entire family.. R.I.P. Wayne
Helen (Waterbury) Higgins
I have so many memories and words... and yet I have no words. The theater community has lost an amazing man who could simultaneously terrify and motivate his students more than any teacher. He was loved by all of his students and we knew that we meant the world to him too. I am thankful that Hank was my director in high school - he helped me to be brave and to shine on stage!
Hank and I were Ames High buddies. For well over a decade we made 2 or 3 trips to Indianola, Iowa to attend Des Moines Opera performances during the summer. He got the tickets and invited me to go along. He loved opera, introduced me to it and inspired me to love it too. What a guy!
I attended Ames high from 1989-92. Hank was an important part of the arts and creative community and he helped a lot of the "misfit" kids at the school find a place where they could work together to be creative. I remember being a part of "Taming of the Shrew" and watching the way Hank directed. He maintained focus on the script and the actors, working through phrases that actors might recite without fully understanding. I remember he got us to a point where we could convey the meaning behind the words, work together as a cast, and pull off a show that was more nuanced than any of our individual experiences.
I also remember being a part of the junior and senior one act plays which were directed by seniors and which gave us another opportunity to "up our game" in terms of working collaboratively and working into complex roles in important modern works.
I went on to study literature, dance, performance and art largely due to the positive experiences I had at Ames High. Hank was an important part of that. I'll always remember a phrase he used when we were goofing around and losing focus: "What are you doing over there? You don't want people to think you're from Huxley, do you?"
Back in the mid-80s, I was lucky to be involved in theater at Ames High School. While I admit there were times I was intimidated by him, I always felt really lucky to be in his presence. He was special, a unique and dramatic force who made a huge impact on so many of us. Not just back then, but even now. He was a true gem.
Thank you for for letting me be your first student teacher and for believing in me when I didn't even believe in myself. It was an honor I will never forget and it still leaves me speechless that you considered me worthy of being your peer.
Hank was one of the very few teachers I have had whom I would call beloved by his students. I learned so much from him. He was a primary reason why I didn't drop out entirely.
I was one of Hank's drama students & President of our Thespian (acting) troupe; I've been a professional actress since grad school. I exchanged Christmas cards with Hank & wrote him a letter every year for his birthday; I hope he had a chance to read it. I wish Ames High could establish some sort of student award named for him, & name the new high school auditorium for him.
We knew how special he was. He had ties to the Guthrie Theater in Minneapolis & my theatre professors at Iowa State revered him. He taught us all so much & held everyone to a high level of professionalism; probably why I don't have much tolerance for any lack of it in NYC. When I took a 300-level Shakespeare class while in grad school, the professor was teaching things that we'd learned as sophomores from Hank. He was not beyond playing a joke on a newcomer, or declaring "Quelle fromage!" (which means, what cheese?)
I also had the privilege of being the student director when he took a role in our Summer Theatre production of "Lizzie Borden". We made masks for "Oedipus", walked on a raked stage for "Faustus", & worked to the last possible minute to put finishing touches on the set. We hosted the State Thespian Conference our senior year. So many memories from all the shows we did, both during the school year & the five weeks of Summer Theatre, the only one of its kind in the Midwest. He was our incredibly talented leader, & I alternatingly adored & was awed by him. He will be much missed.
I’m not sure what to say. Hank was one of a kind. He was a wonderful teacher but more than that he turned the Ames High Theater into a welcoming home.
I think of him frequently and fondly.
Loved my Uncle Wayne was caring loved everyone he will be missed by his family and friends RIP Uncle Wayne ....
My sympathy to Hank's family and friends. I was his student and active Thespian in the mid 1970's. Hank was one of the most influential teachers for me in high school and I have great memories of my theatre experiences. Hank was creative, fun, and a wonderful director. He gave us responsibilities for parts of shows that made us feel a true part of the production. I am sure Hank had a positive influence on so many high school youth in his career. May his memory be a blessing.
Aunt Cleo and Uncle Gary, our deepest sympathy to you and the rest of the Hansen family. Our daughter April had Hank in drama and thought highly of him. Ken and Doreen Berg
I moved to Anes in 1996 as a high school freshmen. Hank's drama class introduced me to some lifelong friends and gave me a love for speech. It helped a shy new girl so much! What a loss for the Ames community.
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