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Duesenberg bequests gift to McPherson College

posted Apr 20, 2007 in ACADEMICS

After learning about the Auto Restoration program at McPherson College from Jay Leno, an avid Duesenberg collector, Denny Duesenberg willed nearly $400,000 as well as all tools, machinery and other shop equipment to McPherson College. The monies donated will be added to the Fred Duesenberg Memorial Scholarship Fund that was established by Jay Leno. Denny is the son of Fred Duesenberg, who along with his brother August, created the famous Duesenberg automobile line.

Duesenberg’s family was immersed in the world of automobiles during the 1900’s. Brothers Fred and August Duesenberg were able to take their love for the automobile to create a profit, and apply their knowledge to create improvements that have shaped the history of the automobile. From 1905 to 1937, the Duesenberg name was instrumental in building and improving engines and race cars for use in the Indianapolis “500” (where they were highly successful), creating marine and aircraft engines used by the U.S. Government during World War II and creating America’s first luxury cars.

Duesenbergs’ created the Straight-8 Tourer, the Duesenberg models ‘J’ and the ‘SJ.’ The model ‘SJ’ was the last model and went through many different prototypes until the body and engine were refined perfectly. The Duesenberg automobile was considered a top of the line car with a prestigious appeal that included owners such as Howard Hughes, Clark Gable, Gary Cooper, William Randolph Hearst Jr. and King Alfonso of Spain. Unfortunately, the Depression shortly after its public release changed social priorities and affected sales.

Denny Duesenberg carried on the family dedication. Although the company was sold in 1937, Denny continued his work as a designing engineer for the Ford Motor Company. He kept true to his family passion and never lost his interest in improving the automobile.

“The Duesenberg name is synonymous with automotive quality and all of the great automotive collections from the 1920s and 1930s contain at least one Duesenberg. It is an honor to have the Duesenberg name prominently associated with the McPherson College Auto Restoration program and this major endowed scholarship”, says Ron Hovis, president of McPherson College.

Hovis adds, “A second famous brand name, Jay Leno of The Tonight Show, played a key role in this major gift. Mr. Leno is a well known participant in the restoration and collector community, a huge fan of the Duesenberg marquee and friend of the family, and a tireless advocate for the McPherson College restoration program and its students.”

McPherson College is extremely pleased to be the recipient of this bequest. The monies received will be added to the Fred Duesenberg Memorial Scholarship, which was established by Jay Leno. Denny clearly stands as a fine example of a mentor for all students at McPherson College. He not only dedicated his life to his true passion, but he also set in place a cornerstone to make sure that students at McPherson College can continue his legacy in their own life’s mission.

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