Denfeld celebrates history, graduatesOn Saturday, Aug. 1, Denfeld students, alumni, friends and family will celebrate two things: 100 years of a high school in West Duluth and the remarkable people who make up the Denfeld Hall of Fame.
By: Jana Peterson, Duluth Budgeteer News
The back of Joe Vukelich’s T-shirt tells the true story of a high school whose graduates are exceptionally loyal.
Young and Old
Will Forever Be
Maroon and Gold.”
On Saturday, Aug. 1, Denfeld students, alumni, friends and family will celebrate two things: 100 years of a high school in West Duluth and the remarkable people who make up the Denfeld Hall of Fame.
They’ll celebrate past and present inductees to the Hall of Fame from 2 to 4 p.m. in a ceremony in the school auditorium, then, Saturday night, they’ll boogie to music from the 1940s to today during an all-class dance in the Denfeld gym from 7 to 10:30 p.m. Both events are free to the public (with donations accepted).
However, early Tuesday afternoon, several members of the Denfeld Alumni Association were still taking care of some last-minute details for Saturday’s ceremony.
“We want to do it right this time, so people will say — when it happens again — that it’s a great event to go to,” said board member Dick Swanson, class of 1966. (Swanson is joined on the board by men and women from every decade from the ’40s to the 2000s.)
While the board has selected 10 alumni to enter the Hall Saturday, in its first hall of fame ceremony, the group is also making good to the previous 29 inductees by introducing them (or a representative) and giving each one a plaque to take home.
Another plaque will remain at the school, and will eventually hang on a wall to be named after the renovation work is complete, likely 2012. Those plaques display the name, photo, class and a short biography of each hall of fame member.
Vukelich, who graduated from Denfeld in 1977, revels in the details of the coming event, from the stories that he will tell about long-ago graduates like Wally Smith to the surprise he has planned for Saturday’s ceremony.
“All I can tell is that it will take place right here,” he says to the other board members, pointing to a spot at the center of the stage. With the exception of Swanson, who is in on the secret, the others have no idea what their president has been planning.
It will be the most
elaborate Denfeld Hall of Fame celebration ever, as well as its most diverse class of new inductees.
That’s because the first two classes inducted into the Denfeld Hall of Fame — in 1966 and 1970 — were all males and all athletes or coaches. The third class, in 1996, included female athletes and several school administrators. This year’s Hall of Fame inductees are male and female, athletes and business people, teachers and philanthropists.
“We wanted to broaden the criteria,” said Anna Montgomery, class of 1979.
They selected 10 people from a list of 146 recommendations, on the basis of criteria such as professional accomplishments, military record, community involvement and philanthropy.
“There are people [on the list] who lived like they were making $5,000 a year, then left millions to the school when they died,” Swanson said. “Other people, in the business world, have taken their education and accomplished a lot.”
Some of those people even mention Denfeld teachers when sharing their success story.
“[David] Karpeles listed three teachers that taught him how to organize,” Vukelich said, referring to the 1952 graduate who said money he made selling real estate made it possible for him to follow his passion for collecting historical documents (which now fill nine museums). “Apparently that whole organization thing worked out well for him.”
Meet the latest members of the Denfeld Hall of Fame:
Al Amatuzio, 1942
Al Amatuzio invented the world’s first synthetic motor oil under his company’s name of Amsoil. Amsoil is the leading independent manufacturer of synthetic lubricants which every other oil company has followed. In 1972, Amsoil 10W-40 Motor Oil became the world’s first synthetic motor oil to meet the American Petroleum Institute (API) service criteria. Al became interested in synthetic lubricants during his 25 years in the Air National Guard. Amsoil’s list of other company firsts includes two-cycle oil, racing oil, marine oil and transmission fluid.
Dorothy Arnold, ’35
Dorothy became a Hollywood actress in the 1930s, appearing in 15 films. Dorothy was allowed to graduate early to join the Band Box Review’s Tour. She signed with Universal studio and was promoted as their “Oomph Girl.” Dorothy’s wedding to Joe DiMaggio in 1939 was one of the era’s most well-attended weddings. She also appeared in seven TV shows in the 1950s.
Her birth name was Dorothy Arnoldine Olson. Dorothy’s most memorable films were 1939’s “House of Fear” and “The Phantom Creeps,” with Bela Lugosi.
Mike Colalillo, 1947
The Congressional Medal of Honor is the highest award for valor in action against an enemy force which can be bestowed upon an individual serving in the Armed Forces of the United States.
Mike and his company were pinned down when he stood and led an attack firing a machine gun on a tank until it jammed. He then lead on foot and helped a wounded comrade over the open terrain under fire. He killed or wounded 25 Nazis and aided a wounded comrade at great risk to his own life. President Truman awarded Mike the Congressional Medal of Honor at the White House Jan. 9, 1946.
As of this date, only 3,447 people have been awarded the medal, with 97 still living.
David Karpeles, ’53
David founded Karpeles Manuscript Library Museums, the world’s largest private holding of important original documents and manuscripts, in nine museums around the country including Duluth. Entrance is free.
David taught at three universities starting at age 19 and authored books on mathematics, artificial intelligence, military, housing and historical monographs.
A successful California real estate career allowed David to follow his passion for collecting historial documents. Of the million documents David owns, the following are a just a few: Napoleon authorizing his own pay, a check signed by Thomas Edison, letters from Louisa May Alcott, Abraham Lincoln, Brigham Young and original music from Mozart, Beethoven, Bach, Stravinsky as well as the Nazi surrender agreements at the end of World War II and an early proposed draft of the United States Bill of Rights.
Duane Kerin, 1960
Duane built a local distributorship into a national organization as President of H.A. Holden, Inc. When the company was sold, his employees shared a multi-million dollar deferred compensation plan which had grown twenty-fold between 1980-1999.
Prior to Holden, Duane served in the United States Army Reserve from 1966-1972 and was President of Minneapolis Sheet Metal Works, Inc. for seven years. Since his retirement, he has established a charitable fund through the Minneapolis Foundation. Duane has accomplished all this despite being diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis (M.S.) in 1969.
Helen (Vitich) Lind, 1947
Helen (Vitich) Lind’s leadership and service to Denfeld, the West Duluth community and the city of Duluth has been a lifetime commitment. Helen and SVCNDA have completed over 400 home rehabilitations, initiated Project H.O.P.E. houses and was on West Duluth’s streetscape plan that designed Central Avenue.
In addition, Helen was on ad-hoc Spirit Mountain master plan committee, designed the Rose Garden in Leif Ericson Park and the Enger Park gardens and has served on numerous other committees/ boards.
Jack Moon, 1946
Jack posthumously donated $4 million to start a college scholarship for Denfeld students pursuing a vocational and technical education. Jack went to the University of Minnesota School of Law, served in the Korean conflict and was a successful real estate developer and attorney in Duluth. A very private man, Jack saw a need for vocational and technical education and then surprised the entire Denfeld community by bequeathing his very generous gift.
Marie Saltwick, ’25
Marie posthumously donated $2.7 million to “The Greater Denfeld Scholarship Fund” helping Denfeld students fund a college education in perpetuity. Marie’s service, commitment and love for Denfeld is to be treasured.
Marie went to college and came back to Denfeld to teach Biology from 1929-1971. As one of Denfeld’s longest serving teachers, she educated thousands; as a benefactor, she’ll continue to educate Denfeld students who pursue a higher education forever.
Gail Sederski, 1976
Gail was the first Denfeld female athlete to make a Division I athletic team after the federal passage of Title IX Education Amendments of 1972. She played basketball and fast pitch softball for the University of Minnesota.
Gail was the 1976 Tessier-Waltman softball award winner and all-conference in basketball and fast pitch at Denfeld. She was the first female basketball player to win the City of Duluth’s “Hoop Club” Award. Gail also participated in cross country, track and volleyball. Gail went on to a sales/management career.
Miss Snodgrass was the inspiration behind “The Greater Denfeld Scholarship Fund” which has given financial aid to Denfeld students to go to college since 1972. It has since become one of the largest high school scholarship funds in the nation.
Miss Snodgrass was active in the American Association of University Women, the Women’s Institute and Delta Kappa Gamma Education Sorority. Lenore taught English at Denfeld from 1918-1953 and her sudden death inspired her colleagues and students to start a scholarship in her memory. In 1972, it became known as “The Greater Denfeld Foundation Scholarship Fund” and it has grown to become a multi-million dollar scholarship fund that has contributed significantly to Denfeld student’s college financial aid plans.
~ Biography information from Joe Vukelich.