Denfeld News

July 31, 2009
Duluth News Tribune

Celebrating Denfeld — and a quality Duluth education
Commentary by Duluth News Tribune editorial board

A lot happened a century ago, in 1909. The first concrete was poured for the Panama Canal. A 22-year-old housewife became the first woman to drive across the U.S., traveling for 59 days with three female companions, none of whom knew how to drive. Streetcars were taking Duluthians nearly everywhere they needed to go. And the St. Louis County Courthouse opened.

Also, in West Duluth, the school that would become Denfeld High School graduated its first class.

Saturday, an expected 1,000 Denfeld graduates, supporters and others will celebrate that class’ 100-year anniversary by inducting 10 new members into the school’s hall of fame.

The inductees will include millionaires, a Hollywood actress, the guy who invented the world’s first synthetic motor oil, a World War II hero, the woman who designed Duluth’s famous Rose Garden and others. Those expected to be in attendance include descendents of Robert Denfeld, the nationally recognized educational pioneer who served as superintendent in Duluth from 1885 to 1916, an era during which 27 new schools were built, and the family of Walter Hunting, the legendary, long-time sports coach from whom the school took its nickname, the Hunters.

The reunion-of-sorts is scheduled from 2 to 4 p.m.

Beyond honoring well-deserving individuals, the event promises to be a celebration of a Duluth landmark. Denfeld’s famous clock tower has tickled the clouds at 44th Avenue West since 1926, although the school can trace its roots back to 1905 when Duluth Industrial High School opened at the site of Irving Elementary. The first Denfeld, at what is now Laura MacArthur Elementary on Central Avenue, opened in 1915.

Tomorrow’s festivities can also pay tribute to more than a century of quality education in Duluth. The city’s first high school, Central, opened in 1892. That’s 117 years of top-notch teaching and success stories from thousands of graduates.

The promise of thousands more rides on the construction and reconstruction of schools under the Duluth district’s current long-range facilities plan. Through that plan, a century from now, in 2109, this weekend’s celebration could very well still be going strong.

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