Skip to main content


Hall of Fame Spotlight: Jill Lofald

Posted: Monday, January 22, 2024 - 9:52 AM

HOF Class of 2024
Hall of Fame, Jill Lofald

Jill Lofald

At the beginning of the season, on bus rides to tournaments and at parents meetings, longtime Duluth Denfeld Speech Coach, Jill Lofald, shares the program’s mission statement. It is the guiding principles that pave the way for a student’s growth as not only speakers, but also as people. The belief is that competition promotes strong character essential for success.

“I love opening doors of opportunity,” Lofald shared with the League.

That is the lead-in to the final lines of the mission statement: “Finally, we strive to make sure that Denfeld speech opens doors of opportunities that remain might otherwise remain closed for many students. We see every opportunity, be it performing for community groups, business organizations or competing in all corners of our state; as a chance to do something genuine, something challenging and something that will forever set us apart from our peers.”

Lofald has been the cornerstone of driving that success in a career that spans more than four decades and in the words of her Hall of Fame nominator, Joni Anker: “Jill has dedicated her life to teaching and coaching students the art of the spoken word.”

Lofald, a 1972 graduate of Esko High School, began her coaching and teaching journey at Barnum High School where she immediately created the school’s first League Speech team and directed the League’s One Act Play competition. A year later, she returned to her alma mater for seven years before spending the majority of her career at Duluth Denfeld where she remained as a teacher until 2016.

She is in her 46th Speech season and remains passionate about guiding students to reach beyond their comfort zones in achieving success after graduation. She has had 250 section finalists, 150 Speech State Tournament qualifiers, 30 state medalists and five state champions. More than 300 students have earned degrees and honors with the National Speech and Debate Association.

Lofald earned national recognition with the prestigious NFHS Section 5 Speech Coach of the Year Award

Lofald’s service to the League is vast with numerous leadership roles ranging from judging, contest administration and a four-year term on the Board of Directors from 2008-2012. She has also held service roles with professional organizations like the Minnesota Speech Coaches Association, the Communication Theater Association of America and the National Speech Debate Association.

In 2017, and again in 2021, she is serving on the Duluth School Board representing West Duluth.

“I don’t think I could name another speech or debate colleague who has served in more ways than Jill,” Anker said. “She has always been  willing to sit on any committee, host section tournaments and judge both section and state tournaments.”

Hall of Fame, Jill Lofald 2

Next Article

MSHSL History Capsule: Blake Hoffarber