National Memorial to Fallen Educators: Honoring the Legacy of Principal Dan Marburger

Dan Marburger, the high school principal from Perry, Iowa, who was shot and killed by a 17-year-old at his school  this year, was honored recently as his name was added to the National Memorial to Fallen Educators. The memorial, a permanent tribute to those who lost their lives in the line of duty, recognizes the noblest among us who dedicate their lives to educating the youth of our country.

Also added to the memorial this year is teacher and coach Ryan Lantz from Liberty High School in Clarksburg, West Virginia. Lantz was hit by a vehicle and killed in the school parking lot on Feb. 20.

Marburger died on Jan. 14, 10 days after he confronted the former student. His actions distracted the shooter, allowing students trapped in the school to flee the cafeteria. One student died, and two staff members and four students were wounded.

The National Teachers Hall of Fame was inspired to create the Memorial to Fallen Educators in December 2012 after the tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut. It was dedicated in June 2014 with two granite tablets bearing 114 names. In 2018, it became the only national memorial in Kansas, thanks to efforts in the U.S. Congress led by Kansas Sen. Jerry Moran and then-Kansas Rep. Roger Marshall, now a senator.

“Today marks a poignant milestone as we gather to honor the memories of educators who have tragically lost their lives in the line of duty. The National Memorial to Fallen Educators stands as a testament to their sacrifice and dedication,” said Dr. Anthony Salvatore, former assistant principal at Sandy Hook Elementary School and a general vice president of the AFSA.

In a heartfelt speech reflecting on the significance of this memorial and the continued impact of these educators' legacies, Salvatore added, “I am as honored to be here today as I was 10 years ago to witness the inaugural dedication of what is now known as the National Memorial to Fallen Educators."

Dr. Salvatore's connection to this cause is deeply personal. He served as assistant principal at Sandy Hook Elementary the year before the tragic shooting that claimed the lives of 20 first graders, five educators and AFSA member and Principal Dawn Lafferty Hochsprung. "Exactly one week from today, on June 28, Dawn would have celebrated her 59th birthday," he shared, highlighting the enduring impact of that day.

The ceremony underscored the importance of commemoration in the healing process. Dr. Salvatore spoke of the enduring pain and bittersweet memories that accompany such loss. "Our presence here today binds us together as an extended family who share a deep and intimate loss," he said. He emphasized the need for support, understanding, and the power of unconditional love in navigating trauma and grief.

Drawing inspiration from history, Dr. Salvatore likened visiting a national memorial to a pilgrimage. "It is not what we bring to national memorials that is as important as what we take away for our own lives from these heroes’ stories," he noted. The National Memorial to Fallen Educators stands as a beacon, reminding the world of the sacrifices made by these educators and the enduring love of their families and communities.

In closing, Dr. Salvatore offered words of comfort and solidarity. "I wish each of you peace and comfort along your healing journey. We will always be by your side." His speech was a powerful reminder that while the tragic endings of their loved ones do not define their lives, their stories of love, sacrifice and dedication will forever inspire and guide us.

The memorial, located at Emporia State University in Emporia, Kansas, is part of the National Teacher Hall of Fame (NTHF). Today, there are three granite tablets filled with nearly 200 names. Funds are being raised for a fourth tablet that will have the names of Marburger and Lantz at the top. Each June, during NTHF induction activities in Emporia, the memorial is rededicated with a wish and plea that there be “no more names.”

To keep the memory of educators alive forever, please think about donating to the National Memorial to Fallen Educators. Make a donation here.

AFSA Vice President Dr. Anthony Salvatore and Elizabeth Marburger, wife of Principal Dan Marburger