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Encyclopedia Dubuque


"Encyclopedia Dubuque is the online authority for all things Dubuque, written by the people who know the city best.”
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Affiliated with the Local History Network of the State Historical Society of Iowa, and the Iowa Museum Association.


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Dubuque Senior High School

DUBUQUE SENIOR HIGH SCHOOL. Dubuque High School was opened in 1858 on the third floor of a building on the southwest corner of Central Avenue and 12th Street. The school enrolled one hundred ten students and had a staff of two teachers and one principal. The institution was moved to a building at 17th and Iowa STREETS in 1859 and then closed until 1866. Reasons given included the start of the CIVIL WAR, an economic depression, and a feeling among the residents of Dubuque that an elementary education was sufficient.

In 1866 the high school was reopened, and the classes that had been conducted in the ward schools were transferred to Turner Hall. The stage curtain and scenery present in the building were donated to the City. The District's administrative office was moved to the high school in 1872.

A complete high school course in the early years was three years in length. Each academic year included three terms. The first graduating class in 1870 had only two students, Sarah M. Belden and Mary A. Dorgan. Only twenty-five students graduated from the program between 1870 and 1876. The original teaching staff included the principal and up to three teachers.

By 1877 most courses were extended to four years. Four-year Latin, scientific and classical programs, and a two-year business course were offered. From 1877 to 1885 the number of graduates soared to 219. After 1885 the classical course was discontinued while the other two programs were continued with little change. When the board of education realized by 1895 that most students were choosing the two-year business program, it was discontinued, and high school became strictly a four-year program.

In 1893 the proposal to issue bonds in the amount of $75,000 to purchase a site and erect a new high school was approved by Dubuque voters by a margin of 956 to 235. CENTRAL HIGH SCHOOL was dedicated on January 17, 1895.

In August 1920 the board of education purchased fifteen acres of farm land from MT. SAINT JOSEPH COLLEGE for $45,335. J. W. Royer was chosen as the architect with the general contractor being English Brothers from Champaign, Illinois. Hollow bricks for the interior walls were purchased from Heim and Sons of Dubuque while the stone work on the exterior was done by BYRNE BROTHERS. A special ventilating system changed the air in the twenty-six classrooms and auditorium every six and one-half minutes. Stairways were enclosed in fireproof walls and the corridor floors were constructed of cement and marble aggregate. The auditorium seated 1,166 and was designed with an old English style oak-beamed ceiling. This was remodeled in 2006-2007. The school's cafeteria was equipped to serve three hundred students at a time with two shifts of forty-five minutes each. (1)

Built at a cost of $766,179, Dubuque Senior High School was formally dedicated on February 9, 1923. An overflow crowd of four thousand caused many to be seated in the auditorium with others moved to the gymnasium. Speakers for the program spoke in one location and then moved to the other to allow everyone to hear. Enrollment the first year reached 733 students.

Dubuque Senior High School Band (1925)
Photo courtesy: Paul Lembke

"Open House" played an early role in acquainting parents with the work of the school. On May 15, 1925 classes began at 2:00 p.m. instead of 9:00 a.m. and continued until 8:50 p.m. This was done to make it possible for parents who worked to attend. Every class was conducted, examples of work were displayed, and the cafeteria was open from 5:35 to 7:35 p.m. (2)

Looking back, an understandable oversight was made in 1935. Jay BERWANGER a star football player at Dubuque Senior received news that he had won a trophy from the Manhattan Downtown Athletic Club. Named for the club's athletic director, the John W. Heisman Trophy was in its first annual presentation to an outstanding football player. "It wasn’t really a big deal when I got it," Berwanger recalled in 1985. "No one at school said anything to me about winning it other than a few congratulations. I was more excited about the trip than the trophy because it was my first flight." On December 9, 1935 he received the first John W. Heisman Memorial Trophy, a name soon shortened to the now famed HEISMAN TROPHY. (6)


In 1936 the high school institute a point system for extra curricular activities. The purpose was to "distribute services" and to limit the number of activities in which any student could be involved. The merit plan, accepted by the student council and faculty was used to determine membership in the National Honor Society. During each of three seasons during the year, students were limited on the number of points (activities) they could carry with respect to their grades and classification. Supervisors of each activity graded each student as to their efficiency and service to provide a record of the student's extra-curricular work. (3)

Band recognition in 1938. Photo courtesy: Edith Norman and Bob Reding
Cacheted cover from 1944

With the help of WPA funding, a girl's gymnasium, lockers, dressing rooms, shower rooms, football practice field, and band room were added to the school between 1923 and 1940. A new technical building and a gymnasium were dedicated on November 12, 1954. Additional classrooms and a library were added in 1965-1966 due to increasing enrollment. In 1990 a $5.3 million building addition to Senior included departmental learning centers, a new cafeteria/ commons area, a new library, computer labs, and additional classrooms.

Efforts were launched in 1975 to provide Dalzell Field with Prescription Athletic Turf (PAT). Because the field was used every year by the city's three high schools, the grounds became very torn up. REILLY, C. Michael "Mike", spokesperson for Dubuque Turf Boosters, Inc., a group formed to promote a new surface for the field, explained that the PAT system was a regular grass surface installed over a sand base with an irrigation pumping system that removes rainwater--the major cause of field damage. The PAT system was cheaper and caused fewer injuries than artificial turf and was almost as durable. Maintenance costs were expected to be $300 annually instead of the $5,000 the district annually spent on repairs. A fund drive to raise $150,000 was planned. (4)

In 1990 Dubuque Senior High initiated the Renaissance Project, a means of providing incentives for good grades. Students with all grades an "A" received a red card for discounts at school and local businesses. Students with grades of "A" and "B" received a blue card and those with all "C" grades received a white card. There was also a card for those who significantly improved their grade point average. The program cost about $5,000 annually to support and new donors were appreciated. (5)

Members of the school board and administration saw a preliminary sketch by Carl Hornstad of Decorah, Iowa for the Dubuque Senior High auditorium in June 1991. The graduating class planned to give the mural to the school to portray minorities and women in leadership roles. The sketch showed a woman working on a telephone pole, a black construction foreman and a professional woman calling on a wheelchair-using executive. (6) The board's curriculum committee chose to refine the sketch. The group decided that the woman working on a telephone pole should be wearing a hardhat. Three men standing at the construction site should include a Hispanic, Native American and an Asian. The indoor office scene should include a white man and a black man discussing business with a white woman in a wheelchair. (7) The mural, completed in a two-week period during the summer of 1991, was unveiled in late September. Donations had been received from students, city residents, and the Dubuque chapter of NATIONAL ASSOCIATION FOR THE ADVANCEMENT OF COLORED PEOPLE (N.A.A.C.P.). (8)

In 1993 Dubuque Senior began a school within a school. The concept involved three teachers and approximately ninety incoming freshmen. Each school morning the students studied science, English and math with the three teachers who had the ability to adjust the schedule to fit unique learning opportunities. In the afternoon, the students returned to the larger school for elective courses. The idea was to make a large school seem smaller. The result was high academic success, high attendance, and high parent involvement. The $22,000 planning grant from the New Iowa Schools Development ran out and the school-within-a-school was ended for one year. It was revived in 1998 with the same three teachers and one hundred students. (9)

During the summer of 1993, Senior offered its first summer clinic for students who needed extra help or in some cases needed to make up credits for classes they had failed. The clinics featured teams of students and teachers working together for an entire morning. (10)

Renovation of Dalzell Field. Photo in 2012.
The girl photographed reaching up to touch the statue of Jay Berwanger, Senior graduate and winner of the first HEISMAN TROPHY was none other than his great-granddaughter. Photo courtesy: Brian Cooper

Dalzell Field, serving Senior and Hempstead, was the scene of a $10.5 million renovation in 2012-2013. The completed complex featured artificial turf, Musco sports lighting, a regulation eight-lane track, a 3,125 home bleacher section with an additional 1,500 visitor seats, an 11 x 20 feet digital display section on the scoreboard, new locker rooms, new concession stands, tickets booths and an $86,500 private donation-funded bronze statue of Jay BERWANGER. (11)

In February 2015, it was announced that a $25 million project involving renovations at Dubuque Senior was moving into the conceptual design phase. Architects' renovations would be funded by the 1-cent sales tax. (12) In the same month the school received three critic's choice banners at the Iowa High School Speech Association Large Group All-State Festival. It was the third time Senior received three banners in a single festival preceded by 1984 and 1987. (13)

Few athletic accomplishments could surpass the 1971 Rams' football team bringing home the Mississippi Valley Conference football championship for the first time in 28 years. The event was celebrated on November 8, 1971 with the "Senior High Victory Day." (14) Maddie Hawkins in 2017 became the first athlete in the history of the school to win her third straight Mississippi Valley Conference Player of the Year award and the same week to capture her third city title. (15)

Encouraging volunteerism was part of many schools in the tri-state area in 2018. At Dubuque Senior the Silver Cord Program begun in 2018 required freshman to earn 100 service hours during high school at a recommended rate of twenty-five hours annually. Older students' requirements were prorated on their grade as the program was phased in. Students completing the program received a cord to wear at graduation and recognition in the graduation program. (16)

In June, 2018 walnut ceiling panels rescued from a building in Keokuk and believed to have been made over 10 years earlier in the Millwork District were installed in coffered ceilings in the new commons area. The panels were donated by Terry MOZENA; his brothers, Dr. Darryl Mozena (a frequent contributor to this encyclopedia, Dan MOZENA Jeff Mozena, president of PREMIER BANK (all Senior alumni) and their brother-in-law, Martin MCNAMER. "They graduated from Senior. They went down and worked with their fathers in the Millwork District, and this is what they made," said Mozena. The panels were donated in honor of their parents, Kenneth E. MOZENA and his wife, Edna MOZENA (17)




See: Frederick Wilhelm KALTENBACH

See: 2017 Construction https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=E5TrijraihY

Article in Telegraph Herald-Nov. 13, 1935. Photo courtesy: Diane Harris

Among its many claims to fame, the school is the home to MURALS created by Cyril FERRING.

Photo courtesy: Bob Reding
Soft metal tray embossed with the likeness of Dubuque Senior High School. Photo courtesy: Bob Reding
Postcard of Dubuque Senior High School clearly showing the dome that existed on the building until sometime after 1956.
1938 diploma. Photo courtesy: Bob Reding
Suede diploma case used in 1938. Photo courtesy: Bob Reding
Image courtesy: Kendall C. Day Family Collection
1938 class ring
Photo courtesy: Bob Reding
1956 pin
Brass belt slide.


Mr. D.M. Case, 1858

Dr. C.W. Catlin, 1858 - 1859

Mr. A.J. Townsend, 1858 - 1859

Mr. J.M. Brainard, 1859 - 1866

Mr. W.H. Beach, 1866 - 1867

Mr. Wells, 1867 - 1875

Mr. Peet, 1875 - 1877

Mr. Parker, 1877 - 1885

Mr. Compton, 1885 - 1889

Mr. Walker, 1889 - 1894

Mr. Smart, 1894 -

Mr. Gochanauer, 1895 - 1899

Mr. Smart, 1899 - 1901

Mr. Anderson, 1901 - 1903

Mr. Ehrlman, 1903 - 1914

Mr. Stevenson, 1914 - 1924

Ms. Hallmann, 1924 - 1925

Mr. Johnson, 1925 - 1944

Mr. Jackson, 1944 - 1947

Mr. Lee, 1947 - 1964

Dr. Kampschroer, 1964 - 1966

Mr. Darsee, 1966 - 1970

Mr. Don Kolsrud, 1970 - 1987

Mr. Larry Mitchell, 1987 - 2005

Ms. Kim Swift, 2005 - 2011

Mr. Rick Colpitts, 2011-2012

Mr. Dan Johnson, 2012-



Board minutes

1. Gibson, Michael. "Yesterday and Today," The Golden View, February 2014.

2. "Open House Day at Senior High," Telegraph Herald, May 10, 1925, p. 7

3. "School Adopts Point System," Telegraph Herald, November 15 1936, p. 12

4. "Fund Drive Planned for New Dalzell Surface," Telegraph Herald, December 9, 1975, p. 2

5. Krapfl, Mike. "Senior Project Aids Good Grades," Telegraph Herald, February 2, 1993, p.5A

6. Hanson, Lyn. "Preliminary Sketch Unveiled for Senior Auditorium Mural," Telegraph Herald, June 15, 1991, p. 4A

7. Krapfl, Mike. "Senior's School Within A School Back With Old Lesson Plan," Telegraph Herald, February 24, 1997, p. 1. Online: https://news.google.com/newspapers?nid=aEyKTaVlRPYC&dat=19970224&printsec=frontpage&hl=en

8. Hanson, Lyn. "Panel Revises Artist's Conception For Senior Mural," Telegraph Herald, June 21, 1991, p. 3A

9. Arnold, Bill. "Mural Depicting Dubuque in 1900s Unveiled," Telegraph Herald, September 29, 1991, p. 3A

10. Krapfl, Mike. "Success Focus of Summer School Clinic," Telegraph Herald, July 2, 1993, p. 3A

11. Gibson

12. Becker, Stacey. "Principal: Renovations Sorely Needed at Senior." Telegraph Herald, February 12, 2015, p. 1

13. "2015: A By-The-Numbers Review of the Year in the Tri-States," Telegraph Herald, January 3, 2016, p. 1

14. Babcock, Susan, "Then Came the Accolades," Telegraph-Herald, November 9, 1971, p. 15

15. Mumm, Shannon. "Hawkins in the Zone," Telegraph Herald, May 18, 2017, p. 1B

16. Hinga, Allie. "Schools Emphasize Role of Volunteerism in Education," Telegraph Herald, March 26, 2018, p. 1A

17. Hinga, Allie. "Historic Flair," Telegraph Herald, June 20, 2018, p. 1