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Four selected as 2022 Distinguished Alumni 

Four selected as 2022 Distinguished Alumni 

Four individuals will be honored for distinction after graduating from Stillwater Area High School. They will join more than 100 others who have been named Distinguished Alumni since the award was first given in 1987.

This year’s class of Distinguished Alumni includes: Jessie Diggins (Class of 2010); Dr. Patrick Hicks (Class of 1988); Danielle Mkali (Class of 1996); and Edward W. Simonet (Class of 1967).

You're invited to join us as we celebrate this year's Distinguished Alumni at a banquet on Friday, June 3 starting at 6 p.m. at the Lake Elmo Inn Event Center. Get your tickets.


Jessie Diggins (Class of 2010)

With three Olympic medals and numerous world championship medals, Jessie Diggins is the most decorated American cross-country skier of all time. In 2018 she and her teammate won the country’s first Olympic gold medal in cross-country skiing. In the 2022 Olympics, Jessie became the first U. S. woman ever to win an individual medal, and the first American ever to win more than one Olympic medal. She is known for her positivity, sportsmanship and grit and serves as a mentor to young skiers across the country. Beyond skiing, Jessie is an ambassador for Protect our Winters, a non-profit whose aim is to effect systemic solutions to climate change. She is also an ambassador for Fast and Female, which works to inspire girls to be active and empowered in sports and a spokesperson for the Emily program, an organization that provides treatment for eating disorders. As an author and speaker, Jessie details her struggles with bulimia and how she healed from it in order to bring hope and understanding to others experiencing eating disorders.


Dr. Patrick Hicks (Class of 1988)

Dr. Patrick Hicks is an internationally noted author, speaker, academic, and professor. He is the author of more than 10 books and over 200 essays, short stories, poems, reviews, and interviews published in some of the best literary and academic journals in the world. He also hosts a popular radio program, Poetry from Studio 47, which airs on National Public Radio affiliates to millions of listeners. He has been nominated twice for an Emmy award, and is the recipient of several grants, fellowships, and teaching awards. Dr. Hicks has been a powerful voice for veteran issues and he conducts creative writing workshops to help vets suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder. After living in Northern Ireland, England, Germany, and Spain for many years, he has proudly returned to his Midwestern roots. He is the Writer-in-Residence at Augustana University. 

Danielle Mkali (Class of 1996)

Danielle Mkali has dedicated her career to building community cooperatives to create wealth building opportunities with Black people. As a Senior Director with Nexus Community Partners she leads a trust fund that redistributes $50 million to the Black community in Minnesota, North and South Dakota. She has also co-founded and led the North Star Black Cooperative Fellowship, connecting participants with the rich history of cooperative economics in the Black community, while receiving technical skills and support for emerging cooperative business ideas. As a community organizer Danielle has also worked tirelessly to uplift the voices of underrepresented communities. She was an organizer of a national campaign to expand low-power FM radio and helped found KRSM, a low-power FM radio station based out of the Phillips neighborhood in South Minneapolis. The station was built to amplify communities whose voices, stories, and cultures are often underrepresented or erased in traditional media and currently broadcasts programming in 6 different languages. She chairs the Partnership in Property Commercial Land Trust Board and is a board member of the Collective Diaspora which is a global community of Black cooperatives and Black led cooperative support organizations. 

Edward W. Simonet (Class of 1967)
Edward Simonet was a fixture of Washington County courtrooms for more than 47 years. In addition to his successful criminal defense practice, he also worked as a public defender and as the examiner of titles. He handled so many misdemeanor cases during his career that the Stillwater Gazette once featured him in a story describing him as “Mr. Misdemeanor.” He was steadfast in his efforts for his clients and the righteousness of their cause, and worked tirelessly to represent clients with a great deal of compassion, kindness, care and consideration. He was known to give rides in his own car to clients without transportation and to take on pro bono cases to ensure everyone had access to legal representation. Ed was also an active mentor and volunteer. He took new colleagues under his wing and mentored new assistant county attorneys and city attorneys. He was actively involved with the Washington County Veterans Court and routinely provided services to homeless Veterans through Stand Down events, as well as volunteering services to the Minnesota Innocence Project.

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