Hunter Hall of Fame

Robert Eduard Denfeld (1853 to 1921)

Denfeld High School gets its name from Robert E. Denfeld, a 32-year superintendent of the Duluth School District. Two of his greatest accomplishments were opening Duluth’s first night school and starting the first free textbook system in Minnesota.

Denfeld was born in Westboro, Mass., the son of German immigrants. After attaining a master’s degree from Amherst College in 1878, he became the principal of two high schools in Massachusetts but quickly resigned to travel abroad. He returned in 1882 and entered Boston University Law School.

He served as the superintendent of the Duluth School District from 1885 to 1916. During that period, Duluth increased from seven schools to 34. In 1886, Adams School and Duluth High School were built. During the 1890s, ten more followed: Bryant, Central, Emerson, Glen Avon, Irving, Jefferson, Jackson, Longfellow, Lakeside and Lowell.

Denfeld was also a key supporter of establishing a two-year school in Duluth to train teachers. A program was created in 1892, housed within the high school. Within three years, plans were underway to build the Duluth Normal School, which grew to become the University of Minnesota Duluth.

Denfeld served as secretary of the National Education Association for one year and by 1893 was its president. In 1907, he was appointed to the Minnesota State School Board, where he served as president.

He was also a 33rd-degree Mason, an honorary degree conferred for exceptional service to Freemasonry.

In the fall of 1915, the Duluth Industrial High School was moved to a new building at 725 N. Central Ave. and renamed Robert E. Denfeld High School.

Denfeld retired in 1916, but served as acting superintendent of the Aurora School District during World War I, while the regular superintendent fought in the war. Denfeld also briefly held a position as a field worker for the Bureau of Education in Washington D.C. and continued giving lectures on educational issues until his death in 1921.

Hall of Fame Members