David's Blog

Monday, November 18, 2013

Learning from our Past While Investing in our Future

My love for Duluth is enhanced by my increasing awareness of our community's remarkable, colorful history. Understanding our shared history enables us to better understand the shared challenges we currently face in Duluth.

With this as a motivation, I read as many books as I can find pertaining to Duluth's history. This inspires me to make routine pilgrimages to the Duluth Public Library. It is time to confess; I am a library nerd.

My most recent visit to the library was particularly productive. I was able to procure the recently published book, DJC Remembered - The Life of Duluth Junior College. It is authored by Margaret Bateman Thomas. She and her book are community treasures.

Her book illustrates how the early 1900s was a transformational time in Duluth. Forward-looking Duluthians, along with members of their Board of Education, provided an astonishing number of new schools for their families and their community. Between 1900 and 1927, twenty-five new schools were erected: twenty elementary, four junior high schools, and Denfeld High School. This was in addition to the Central High School, which was built in 1892.

The funding for these twenty-five schools, in a twenty-seven year span, was made possible by our gracious and optimistic ancestors. They typically had fewer personal resources than do we. Yet, they gave proportionally far more towards the education of their youth. I am delighted they did. We are beholden to them.

The closest our community has ever come to matching this commitment to - and investment in - our public schools was between 2008 and today. Just as 1900 to 1927 was a transformative time in Duluth; the past five years have been equally transformative. Community members funded the construction of four new schools and the comprehensive revitalization of our remaining nine schools.

The Duluth Area Chamber of Commerce's leadership is pleased and proud that our community made this investment in our public schools. We understand that Duluth competes on a national scale to recruit and retain businesses and talent. Business owners, employees and their families consider and value the quality of our public school system. The strength of our schools is paramount to the success of our business community.

The Duluth Public School District's thirteen new or like-new schools are magnificent. Eighty-one years passed between the end of the 1900-1927 transformation and the beginning of the 2008-2013 transformation. The intervening generations largely got a pass, drawing from the investment made in the early 1900's. It was too long to do so.

The Chamber's leadership hopes and trusts that our community will not allow another eighty-one years to pass before another forward-looking, gracious and optimistic generation reinvests in our beloved community's public schools.
David Signature

David Ross, President & CEO

posted by David Ross at


Blogger Unknown said...

Thank you for your recent post about Ms. Thomas' book.

My father, Katsumi Tokunaga, was the first Japanese American to live in Duluth. He attended and graduated from Duluth Junior College ('43-45), coming to Duluth from the Amache Relocation Center. He fondly recalled his two years in Duluth as some of the best of his life. He died in 2005.

I am coming to Duluth June 27-29, to honor my father and hopefully to talk to a few Duluthians from that era. I would like to know what made that time so special for my dad.

I wonder if you can put me in touch with Ms. Thomas? I would love to have coffee with her during my visit. (She wrote about my dad in her book.)

If there is anyone else you think it would be good for me to talk to, please send me their contact information.

I am also hoping to talk to Irene Ferrario. Irene is the younger sister of Robert Ferrario, who as a Denfeld student, became good friends with my father. Would you happen to have her contact information?

Thank you, David, for whatever help you can provide me.

Paul Tokunaga
Atlanta, GA

10:31 AM  

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