August 13, 2014
Dave Durenberger spent 17 years representing Minnesota on the floor of the U.S. Senate, becoming the only Republican senator from Minnesota elected to three terms in office.
But for as much time as he spent in Washington, D.C., he might have spent even more time at Saint John's University.
Durenberger, a 1955 graduate of Saint John's, will present the eighth annual Eugene J. McCarthy Lecture at 8 p.m. Monday, Sept. 8, at the Stephen B. Humphrey Theater, SJU. The event will be moderated by Gary Eichten '69, Minnesota Public Radio news editor-at-large and former host of the "Midday" show.
The event is free, although tickets are needed for admission. Tickets can be acquired at the Benedicta Arts Center box office at the College of Saint Benedict.
The lecture is sponsored by the Eugene J. McCarthy Center for Public Policy and Civic Engagement at Saint John's University, with additional support from the Saint John's University Chair in Critical Thinking, serving the College of Saint Benedict and Saint John's University.
Dave Durenberger is the son of longtime SJU athletic director George Durenberger '28, who guided Johnnie athletics from 1931 until his retirement in 1972. Dave Durenberger was born in 1934, and graduated from Saint John's Preparatory School in 1951 before enrolling at SJU.
During his time at SJU, Dave Durenberger was involved in the Army ROTC program, becoming the program's first cadet battalion commander and the top honor cadet.
A law school graduate of the University of Minnesota, Durenberger practiced law with Harold LeVander in South St. Paul, Minnesota. When LeVander was elected governor of Minnesota in 1966, Durenberger became his chief of staff.
He worked in the private sector from 1971-78 before returning to politics. Hubert Humphrey had won re-election to the Senate in 1976, but passed away in January 1978. Humphrey's wife, Muriel, was appointed to the Senate, but was not a candidate to complete her husband's unexpired term when a special election was set in November 1978.
During what state Democrats would soon call the "Minnesota Massacre," Durenberger defeated businessman Bob Short to help the Republicans win the top three elected positions in Minnesota (Al Quie won the governorship, and Rudy Boschwitz won the other senatorial seat).
Durenberger also won re-election bids against Mark Dayton in 1982 and Skip Humphrey - Hubert's son - in 1988. He did not run for re-election in 1994.
While in the Senate, Durenberger served as chair of the Select Committee on Intelligence and chair of the Health Subcommittee of the Senate Finance Committee, which led to his leadership role in national health reform.
Following his career in the Senate, Durenberger served as a senior health policy fellow at the University of St. Thomas, St. Paul, Minnesota, from 1998-2014. He was also named by then-Gov. Tim Pawlenty to lead a reform-minded Minnesota Citizens Forum on health care costs.
In a 2005 interview, Durenberger said he was no longer a supporter of the Republican Party and was not a supporter of the Democratic Party. In 2010, Durenberger endorsed Independence Party member Tom Horner, his former chief of staff, for governor of Minnesota.
The Eugene J. McCarthy Lecture was established in January 2006. McCarthy spent seven years as a student at Saint John's Preparatory School and University, and nearly one year as a member of the Benedictine community of Saint John's Abbey.
The lecture series carries on McCarthy's deep commitment to the ideals and principles of democratic self-government. It seeks to inspire a new generation of young people to pursue fresh ideas, to challenge the status quo, to effect positive change in their communities.
Past lecturers in the series have included newspaper columnist, author and commentator E.J. Dionne (2007); civil rights leader Julian Bond (2008); current Secretary of Defense and former Nebraska Sen. Chuck Hagel (2009); Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar (2010); columnist and political analyst Mark Shields (2011); journalist Tom Brokaw (2012); and political commentator Cokie Roberts (2013).