Heroic Perry principal dies from injuries sustained during shooting

Perry High School Principal Dan Marburger. Photo courtesy of Perry School District

By Ty Rushing

January 15, 2024

By all accounts, Dan Marburger was a hero even before his valiant final act.

The Perry High School principal died at 8 a.m. Sunday, 10 days after a lone 17-year-old shooter opened fire in the school and wounded Marburger, who tried to talk him down.

“Principal Marburger acted selflessly and placed himself in harm’s way in an apparent effort to protect his students” is how the Iowa Department of Public Safety described his final moments.

Before shooter Dylan Butler took his own life, he killed 11-year-old Amir Jolliff and wounded seven others, including Marburger.

Marburger was a father of five and his daughter, Claire, previously said in a public Facebook post that she was not surprised by her father’s protective instinct.

“As I heard of a gunman, I instantly had a feeling my Dad would be a victim as he would put himself in harm’s way for the benefit of the kids and his staff,” Claire Marburger said. “It is absolutely zero surprise to hear he tried to approach and talk Dylan down and distract him long enough for some students to get out of the cafeteria. That’s just Dad.”

Following the announcement of his death, she wrote a touching tribute that highlighted how the elder Marburger took care of his family but also did his best to work with students who needed extra guidance from a steady figure.

“Sometimes all a kiddo needs to find success is for someone to genuinely hear them, and see them, and prove to them that someone cares about them after their mistakes, after their bad choices, and to not leave them out to dry,” Claire wrote. “Dad took no greater pride than seeing the kids he harped on and held up tough expectations for, walk across the stage with a diploma in hand.”

Iowa elected officials also shared their condolences, including Gov. Kim Reyolds who ordered flags to remain at half-staff until sunset on the day of Marburger’s funeral.

“Our entire state is devastated by the news of Dan Marburger’s death. Kevin and I offer our deepest condolences to his wife and family as we pray for their comfort during this very difficult time,” she said referencing First Gentleman Kevin Reynolds.

“Dan courageously put himself in harm’s way to protect his students, and ultimately gave his own life to save them. He will forever be remembered for his selfless and heroic actions. May he rest in peace,” she continued.

Iowa State Auditor Rob Sand also expressed his condolences.

“I join all Iowans in mourning the loss of Perry High School Principal Dan Marburger,” Sand said. “No one should ever have to give their life to save children from a rampage in a school—a sacrifice Principal Marburger ultimately made.

“Dan Marburger’s courageous actions at Perry High School on the morning of Jan. 4, 2024, saved lives and ensured the safety of many of his students from harm’s way. Thank God for Dan Marburger, and may he rest in peace,” he continued.

Marburger was originally from Sabula, an eastern Iowa island city on the Mississippi River. He played college football at Central College in Pella and spent 35 years working in the Perry School District.

In a statement, the district called Marburger a “tremendous leader.”

“For nearly three decades, Dan was ingrained in every aspect of our Perry Community School District environment, and we are feeling the immense loss of a devoted and caring colleague,” the statement said.

In her tribute post, Claire noted the many hats her father wore.

“My Dad was an incredible man, educator, husband, Dad, grandpa. A person I aspire to be and hope to make proud every day,” she said. “He will be greatly missed. I love you, Dad. You are the best, forever.”

If you want to help support the Marburger family, there is a GoFundMe: https://gofund.me/6d70b125

  • Ty Rushing

    Ty Rushing is the Chief Political Correspondent for Iowa Starting Line. He is a trail-blazing veteran Iowa journalist, an Emmy-nominated filmmaker, and co-founder and president of the Iowa Association of Black Journalists. Send tips or story ideas to [email protected] and find him on social media @Rushthewriter.

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