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The Greater Denfeld Foundation thrives after 50 years


Peyton Bradbury, left, received a Marie V. Saltwick Fellowship and the Greater Denfeld Foundation Health Sciences Award at Denfeld Honors Night in May. He is in the nursing program at Umass Boston. Xander Schroeder, right, received an Armond Hauge Fellowship, a Greater Denfeld Foundation Award and the Matt Kero #4 Memorial Fellowship. He is studying computer science at the University of Minnesota Duluth.

West Duluth public school students pursuing post-secondary education have found a wealth of scholarships available over the past few decades. All of this is due to the groundwork laid 50 years ago and the generosity of generations of Denfeld High School graduates.

The Greater Denfeld Foundation has been reducing the financial burden on Denfeld students since 1972 and has become one of the nation’s largest public scholarship funds. It currently manages more than $8 million in assets according to board chairman Gary Eckenberg, a 1968 Denfeld graduate. More than $2 million in scholarships have been awarded to date.

How did the foundation of a small public high school in northern Minnesota rack up so much money? The answer is small contributions from many people and large contributions from two unlikely former millionaires.

The Greater Denfeld Foundation was formed in 1971 by a group of Denfeld employees and alumni. The school had previously established scholarship funds to honor two teachers – Leona Thomey, who died in a military plane crash in 1945, and Lenore Snodgrass, who died in 1953 – but the funds eventually ran out.

The Greater Denfeld Foundation was established to distribute a few one-time $150 scholarships beginning in 1972. Its original goal was to raise $250,000 in scholarship assets, and after 29 years of modest growth, the foundation had 175,000 $ in bank. In 2001, a pair of major gifts over a five-year period from two esteemed Denfeld alumni expanded the foundation’s financial assets, far exceeding its original fundraising goal and making it the scholarship powerhouse of studies that she is today.

Mary Saltwick

The first major gift came in 2001 after the death of Marie Saltwick, a 1925 Denfeld graduate and distinguished teacher who spent 40 years teaching biology in the school’s historic building, retiring in 1971 as the Greater Denfeld Foundation was forming. She served on the board for about a decade.

As a retired teacher who never married, Saltwick was not considered someone who could have hidden wealth. However, she was supposed to be a savvy investor and led a modest life. A particularly good stock tip from Denfeld Group professor Lloyd Swartley reportedly led Saltwick to invest in Polaroid Corp. at an opportune time, leading to his fortune.

She bequeathed the colossal sum of $2.7 million to the foundation. There was more to come.

Armond Hauge

Armond Hauge graduated from Denfeld in 1946. Like Saltwick, he was an unlikely millionaire. He worked as an auto mechanic at Sterling Motors, which later became Ryland Ford. But he also had a talent for real estate and stock market investments.

After his death in 2006, his estate of $3.2 million was bequeathed to the foundation to create a new scholarship fund. He valued hard work and maintained an unwavering work ethic even as a young child – he started working when he was 6 years old and his employer gave him a bike five years later to never miss a day of work. With that in mind, its scholarship fund is for students who demonstrate a commitment to hard work during their high school years.

A lasting legacy

The Greater Denfeld Foundation scholarship funds are managed by the US bank’s wealth management department, and members of the foundation’s board meet with the bank quarterly to discuss the financial health of scholarship recipients. funds. Jerry Zanko, a former chairman of the foundation who sits on the scholarship committee, said the foundation was instructed not to spend the principal of the funds, and because of that, donations from Saltwick and Hauge will help send students from Denfeld in college forever.

“[The funds] are in good hands,” Zanko said. “We would like to give away more money than we do, but it’s not sustainable.”

At Denfeld Honors Night in the spring of 2022, the foundation donated $151,158 to Denfeld seniors. Thirty-five students received the Armond Hauge Scholarship, worth $3,000 renewable for four years, and 15 received the Marie Saltwick Scholarship, also worth $3,000 renewable for four years.

Assuming all Hauge and Saltwick scholarships are renewed for all four years, the total amount awarded to the Class of 2022 will be $511,158. Eighteen other scholarships of varying amounts were awarded through 13 other scholarships administered by the foundation, all of which are one-time annual awards with their own criteria for things like academic performance, financial need, planned academic major and even extracurricular interest.

“Looking at the graduates and what they’ve been through, the economic challenges and two years of covid, it’s inspiring to see how many talented and dedicated students there are,” Zanko said. “The average scholarship candidate, whether wealthy or not, exhibits the same drive and determination, and that’s inspiring.”

A few million more

An additional scholarship fund of note for Denfeld students is the Jack Moon Scholarship, established in 2005 for Denfeld graduates interested in pursuing a career. It is named after John Wallace “Jack” Moon, a lawyer and prominent real estate investor in Duluth, who graduated from Denfeld in 1946. He died in a car accident in 2001 and left a sum of money in his will to create a scholarship fund. for Denfeld graduates.

Not affiliated with the Greater Denfeld Foundation, the Jack Moon Foundation began distributing scholarships in 2005 and today has assets worth $4.5 million. The foundation awards up to $4,000 annually to selected graduates who intend to study at a trade school or technical college in Minnesota, Wisconsin, or Michigan.

Multi-generational connection

The number of individual awards and the amount of money available to Denfeld students are the work of generous contributions from Denfeld alumni, but the Greater Denfeld Foundation does not actively solicit donations. People came forward independently with a sincere desire to bequeath, Zanko said. To date, the scholarship committee is in talks with several individuals who wish to make a significant contribution to the foundation.

Denfeld alumni’s enthusiastic desire to give back to their alma mater lends credence to the positive effect the school has had on many students over several generations. Eckenberg attributes positive alumni engagement in part to respect for the teaching staff, many of whom, like Marie Saltwick, have been committed to the school and its students for 30 to 40 years.

Likewise, he believes that the multi-generational connection that many students and staff have with the school is one of the main reasons many choose to give back to it.

Denfeld – originally called Duluth Industrial High School – was founded in 1905. The current building was constructed in 1926, and it has been a West Duluth educational landmark ever since. Thousands of students have graduated from high school there, and many of them weren’t the first or last in their families to walk its halls and end up signing their names in the clock tower in as graduates.

“There is a commitment to the school not only from the children, but it has been passed on to them by generations of parents. My dad was a Denfeld graduate and I had teachers he had, and they were wonderful. Eckenberg said. His two daughters also attended Denfeld. “The continuity is intense, there’s just such a connection to this school.”

Jayden Erie is a graduate of Denfeld and the recipient of the Armond Hauge Scholarship for the Class of 2020. He is entering his freshman year at Illinois Wesleyan University.