Duane Lund spent a quarter century overseeing the public school system in Staples, Minn., and a lifetime looking out and advocating for his central Minnesota town.
Using his outgoing personality and drawing on the deep connections he developed during his five years as chief of staff for Sen. Edward Thye in Washington, D.C., Lund turned Staples schools into an academic, arts and athletic powerhouse during his tenure as superintendent from 1960 to 1985. He was instrumental in bringing vocational education to Staples, leading the effort to start a trade school that is now part of Central Lakes College.
His reach was felt far beyond the classroom. The civic-minded Lund collaborated with business leaders and politicians to promote Staples and create economic opportunities that included bringing 3M, Benson Optical and other small businesses to the town of about 3,000 residents.
“Duane was a moving force and enabler,” said Stan Edin, who has known Lund for more than 60 years and previously served as director of the Staples Area Vocational Technical Institute, the school Lund helped start. “He was a strong believer in vocational education and a proponent of Staples’ economic development. He looked out for the town, not just as an educator. He was ‘Mr. Staples’ in so many ways.”
Lund died of organ failure Dec. 2 at the Staples Care Center, where he had been living for the past few years. He was 90.
In the mid-1940s, Lund graduated from Brainerd High School, where he is a member of the school’s Hall of Fame, and earned a bachelor’s degree from Macalester College in St. Paul and master’s and doctorate degrees from the University of Minnesota.
He began his career as a teacher and guidance counselor in Staples, where Edin was one of his students. He left for Washington, D.C., in the mid-1950s, but returned to Staples in 1959 to become the high school’s principal. A year later, he was promoted to superintendent.
During his 25 years in the district’s top job, he served on scores of committees and boards, including the National Advisory Council on Vocational Education, the White House Conference on Education and the Minnesota Historical Society. After retiring, he spent 10 years as a senior consultant to the Blandin Foundation in Grand Rapids.
Lund was active in politics, the Staples Rotary Club and like his father, Richard, he was an avid outdoorsman. He owned property near Lake of the Woods in northern Minnesota and often invited politicians and business leaders on hunting and fishing outings, all while lobbying for the town he embraced.
“He would do anything to promote the town and school system,” said Jerry Hayenga, a longtime friend who said Lund was like a brother to him. “He had fantastic connections and energy galore. He was a one-man Chamber of Commerce.”
He was honored in 2004 when the Staples Motley Area Community Foundation presented him with the first Duane Lund Award for Lifetime Achievement, given annually since for service and dedication to the communities of Staples and Motley, which joined their school systems in 1994.
Beloved by many, his birthday parties were considered an unofficial town holiday. “Everybody went,” said Mary Klamm, the current superintendent of the Staples-Motley school district.
In his downtime, Lund enjoyed traveling, cooking, oil painting and writing. He wrote more than 45 books, including “Our Historic Upper Mississippi,” which was nominated for a Minnesota Book Award in 1992.
Lund was a longtime member of Staples United Methodist Church. Services have been held.