David F. Durenberger, 88, St. Paul
August 19, 1934 – January 31, 2023
David Ferdinand Durenberger died peacefully at his home in Saint Paul, Minnesota on Tuesday surrounded by his loving family.
He was born in Saint Cloud, Minnesota to George Gephard Durenberger and Isabelle Cebulla Durenberger. He married Judith Katherine McGlumpy on April 28, 1962 at Saint John’s Abbey, Collegeville, Minnesota. Judy died on November 14, 1970 at the age of 31. His second marriage ended in divorce in 1993. David married Susan Bartlett Foote on August 25, 1995 in New Brighton, Minnesota.
“Dave” graduated from St. John’s Prep School in 1951 and St. John’s University in 1955, after which he received his law degree from the University of Minnesota in 1959. After serving in the United States Army as an intelligence officer, he began his career as an attorney with the law firm of Levander, Gillen and Miller in 1959. With the election of attorney partner Harold Levander as governor of Minnesota in November 1966, he became the governor’s chief of staff. In 1971, Dave worked for Elmer L. Andersen at the HB Fuller Company of Saint Paul as in-house counsel and director of community affairs. In 1977 he campaigned for governor of Minnesota before yielding to Congressman Al Quie and becoming the Independent Republican Party’s nominee for the United States Senate post created by the death of Hubert H. Humphrey. Dave was elected November 7, 1978 and was sworn in as senior senator for Minnesota two days later. He served until January 3, 1995. After leaving the US Senate, he returned to Minnesota, where he founded the Institute of Health Policy at the University of St. Thomas in Minneapolis until 2014. The Durenberger Washington Health Policy Seminar is an integral part of the CV.
Dave used his seniority and friendships in the Senate, and was empowered by a strong bipartisan spirit, to work his way into the key committees to help most Minnesota residents: Finance (taxes, commerce, and health); Environment and Public Works (Freeways, Waterways and Parks); and labor, health and social services.
In the field of environment and public works, he has been instrumental in drafting acid rain reduction legislation, creating the Superfund cleanup legislation and other programs designed to protect the country’s natural resources. He reserved vast tracts of pristine forest, waterways, and wilderness for the enjoyment of future generations and made important contributions to the Water Control Act of 1987 and the Clean Air Act of 1990. His committee service also gave him a leadership role in infrastructure investments in Minnesota and the whole country.
On the Senate Working Committee (now the HELP Committee), he achieved important reforms on health and safety issues related to the FDA, CDC and NIH. Dave viewed regulation for the benefit of American consumers as a beneficial aspect of government, not government overdoing it.
He was the original sponsor of the Americans with Disabilities Act, which passed in 1990, equalized opportunities for millions of Americans and instilled their skills and character in the workforce. He also served as chair of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, where his work held the CIA accountable after abuses of power and required an annual national intelligence strategy.
His most important reform contribution was in the field of health care. He leveraged the state’s Medicare program to improve quality, access and affordability at thousands of hospitals across America. He was one of the first to focus on the importance of health outcomes and quality to improve the health care system and control costs. During the push for sweeping health care reform in the early Clinton years, Dave led a bipartisan Senate effort called the Mainstream Coalition of twenty senators hoping to negotiate a middle ground. While that work ended when the Clinton plan failed, many of the creative provisions in her work found their way into Obama’s Affordable Care Act many years later.
As the Equal Rights Amendment languished in the constitutional amendment process, Dave annually introduced the Economic Equity Act — scouring the U.S. Code for discriminatory laws in insurance, taxation, entitlements, government procurement, and other areas — and systematically eliminating hundreds of sexist laws and regulations . Among other achievements, the Economic Equity Act provided a platform for legislation that addressed the injustices faced by women in most pension schemes.
Key to everything he has accomplished in the areas of health, infrastructure, national security and the environment have been the relationships he forged with senators on both his left and right. Senate leaders with views as diverse as Ted Kennedy, Orin Hatch, Bob Dole, and Russell Long respected his thorough knowledge of the issues, his independence, and his commitment to continuing to work on the problem until a solution was found. Most of these good ideas came from ordinary Minnesotans he met in cafes, high streets, and his daily mailbag.
When Senate Majority Leader Bob Dole encountered a thorny and difficult issue that needed solving, he would often scrawl these words at the top of an issue memo: “GIVE IT TO DAVE.”
Dave dedicated his life to public service, participating in and leading countless boards, commissions and other groups dedicated to improving the lives of Minnesotans.
Dave is survived by a loving wife, Susan Bartlett Foote, whom he has loved for 27 years; children, Charlie (Lois Johnson), David (Heather Watson), Michael (Margaret Fairhurst) and Daniel (Jennifer Kirkendall); stepchildren, Benjamin Foote, Rebecca (Jeff) Greenwald; Brothers and Sisters, Connie Kneip, Mark (Barb), Tom (Barb), Mary (John) McLeod; sister-in-law Debbie Helf; 14 grandchildren, Sara (Zack) Knight, Emily (Payton) Hill, David Paul, Jacob, Hope, Amelia, George Holton, Matthew, David Evans, Josephine Evans, Liam Foote, Mateo Foote, Ally Greenwald and Will Greenwald.
He was preceded in death by his wife, Judith Katherine (McGlumpy) Durenberger; Parents, George and Isabelle Durenberger.
Christian Funeral Mass will be held on Tuesday, February 7, 2023 at 10:00 am and will be celebrated by Abbot John Klassen, OSB, at Saint John’s Abbey Church, Collegeville, MN. The private burial will be at Saint John’s Abbey Cemetery in Collegeville, MN.
The visit begins at 8:30am before the service at Saint John’s Abbey, Collegeville, MN.
Memorials are given preference to the David Durenberger Legacy Fund at St. John’s University, a 501(c)3 organization that supports Washington DC public policy internships for students from Saint John’s and Saint Ben’s.
The funeral will be streamed live at https://saintjohnsabbey.org/live.