Former Le Mars Teacher Craig Ihnen to Retire from IHSSA in June


Craig Ihnen has announced his retirement as the executive director of the Iowa High School Speech Association (IHSSA), effective June 30, 2022. Ihnen will also step down as the senior associate director of the Iowa Girls High School Athletic Union (IGHSAU). 

Ihnen’s retirement comes after serving 28 years as the IHSSA executive director. Before that, Ihnen was a teacher, speech director, and coach in the LeMars Community School District.

“Craig has done an incredible job of raising the bar for speech activities in Iowa,” said Creston principal Bill Messerole, who chairs the IHSSA Executive Committee. “We are thankful for the many things Craig has done for students in Iowa and the IHSSA. The executive committee will be conducting a search for a new executive director in the coming months with the hope of having a new director hired before the June meetings.”

“Craig’s leadership of the IHSSA has enabled Iowa to be a national leader in speech and debate activities,” said IGHSAU Executive Director Jean Berger. “There is no doubt that he has left a strong and lasting impact on all who participated and were a part of speech in Iowa. As a member of the IGHSAU team, Craig was always a source of positivity and encouragement. We will miss him, but we wish him all the best in his next great adventure.”

Ihnen’s tenure at the IHSSA has been nothing short of trailblazing. In addition to directing speech, theatre, and debate activities for over 48,000 Iowa students representing 478 members schools, Ihnen has presented national workshops and keynote speeches to various organizations in the United States. He has served as the national chair of the National Federation of State High School Associations (NFHS) Speech, Theatre and Debate Committee for five years and has been a committee member for 12 years. He is a national leadership coach for the Educational Theatre Association (EDTA), serving as a member of the EDTA IE Committee while helping run the organization’s national festival.

Ihnen has been an in-demand presenter at numerous NFHS events while speaking at multiple state conferences across the country. He is a member of six different halls of fame. He has been recognized as a national judge for the EDTA, the American Legion National High School Oratorical Contest, and the National Speech and Debate Association contests. In 2018, the NFHS awarded Ihnen its Citation Award, honoring individuals who have made significant contributions to the fine arts/performing arts program.

Ihnen has served as an associate director for the IGHSAU since 2008. He has administered the IGHSAU tennis program for over 20 years while spending six years as the swimming and diving administrator. He has been honored twice for his contributions to youth tennis by the Iowa Tennis Association and the USTA. He has also served as a site administrator at the Iowa High School Athletic Association’s Boys State Tennis Meet for 35 years.

Ihnen, a native of Sheldon, IA, and his wife, Susan, reside in West Des Moines. The couple has three adult daughters; Megan, Courtney, and Becca.