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Drake alum Dan Marburger killed in school shooting

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On Jan. 4, 2024, the small town of Perry, Iowa — located about 40 miles north of Des Moines — suffered a tragic school shooting. One student died, and seven other faculty and students were injured in the shooting. 

Among the wounded was Perry High School Principal Dan Marburger, who, according to eyewitness accounts, put himself in harm’s way in order to protect his students. His heroic actions not only distracted the shooter but also involved attempting to calm him down, ultimately allowing students to escape. Marburger died from his injuries on Jan. 14 at UnityPoint Health in Des Moines.

Marburger, who received a master’s in educational administration from Drake University in 1989, told The Perry Chief that he always knew he wanted to be a teacher. He held many different titles throughout his teaching and administrative career, including history teacher, activities director and middle school administrator, before eventually assuming the role of principal at Perry High School. 

Marburger was extremely dedicated to his family and his students, something that shone through in every aspect of his work. He always made time for his family, his daughter Claire said in a post to her Facebook on Jan. 4, often “driving seven hours round trip on school nights to catch my college games in Decorah.” She added that she was not surprised to hear that her father was among the victims of the shooting, saying “that’s just Dad.” 

“It’s hard to put into words how heartbreaking his death is,” Drake Provost Sue Mattison said. “My deepest sympathies, as well as those of the entire Drake community, go to his wife and children whose lives have been devastated.” 

Mattison went on to extend her sympathies to Perry High School and the rest of the Perry community who “will never forget the experience of terror and sense of loss.”

Gov. Kim Reynolds issued a statement following Marburger’s death, acknowledging his heroism. 

“Our entire state is devastated by the news of Dan Marburger’s death,” Reynolds said. “He will forever be remembered for his selfless and heroic actions. May he rest in peace.”

Nearly a thousand people paid their respects to Marburger at a public visitation held on Jan. 19 at Perry Elementary School. Another 600 were in attendance at his funeral, which was held on Jan. 20 at Lutheran Church of Hope in West Des Moines.

At the funeral, wife Elizabeth Marburger challenged the attendees “to see the good in the world,” just like her husband did. 

Drake President Marty Martin issued a statement to The Times-Delphic saying, “My heart breaks for the Marburger family and entire Perry community. By all reports, Principal Marburger was a selfless educator, role model, mentor, loving father and husband, coach, and friend to so many. Through his commitment to the wellbeing of others, he transformed the lives of countless students and strengthened the Perry community in meaningful ways.”

Martin went on to send his condolences to the Marburger family and Perry community on behalf of Drake. He asked that everyone honor Marburger by modeling the life he lived, making differences in the lives of others. 

The Perry School District remained closed following the shooting and reopened in phases. The elementary school resumed classes Jan. 25; the middle school also resumed Jan. 25, but classes will be dismissed early until further notice; and the high school resumed classes Jan. 31.

Marburger had written in his district bio a quote from American poet Maya Angelou that sums up how people described him, “As you grow older, you will discover that you have two hands, one for helping yourself, the other for helping others.”

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