Distinguished alumni announced for 2020

May 26, 2020

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

This year’s class of Distinguished Alumni includes: Wendell Beardsley (1958); Dr. Mark Hill (1988); Jean Marie Miller (1971); and Jan Spreeman (1964). 


Wendell Beardsley (1958)
As a research forester and economist, Wendell Beardsley dedicated his career to natural resource conservation and the economics of recreation. He began his career with the US Forest Service on a lookout tower in Oregon, and went on to timber management and then forest economics and recreation research. He was a recognized expert in recreation evaluation. He was instrumental in numerous projects across the country to designate land for recreational purposes, including the 800-mile Continental Divide National Scenic Trail in Montana and Idaho and the 96-mile Maah-Daah-Hey Trail in Dakota Prairie Grasslands and Theodore Roosevelt National Park. Wendell was a researcher and published author, and taught forestry at Utah State University and Iowa State University. He also served on numerous natural resource conservation organizations, boards and task forces. Wendell earned his bachelor and masters degrees in forestry from the University of Minnesota, and his doctorate degree from Utah State University.

Dr. Mark Hill (1988)
Dr. Mark Hill is known for his bedside manner and the kind way he treats his patients. As Chief of Surgery at Hennepin County Medical Center in Minneapolis, Dr. Hill is certified in general surgery and surgical critical care. He serves as a trauma surgeon and specializes in transplant surgery, and is responsible for saving lives each and every day. Dr. Hill is part of a kidney exchange cooperative where donors and recipients have their surgeries simultaneously. Through this work, doctors have created a pool of incompatible donor/recipient pairs and work to find an exchange that is compatible. He was awarded the Compassionate Doctor Recognition in 2016 and has also been named as one of Minneapolis and St. Paul’s Top Doctors. He attended medical school at the University of Minnesota.

Jean Miller (1971)
Jean Miller has been recognized and celebrated as a visual artist, professor, and higher education leader. As an emerging artist in the 1980s, she was a recipient of grants and awards and invited to exhibit her paintings at the Minneapolis Institute of Art and many galleries across the country. She went on to become a dean at several universities, including University of North Texas and University of Missouri-St. Louis, before becoming the Dean of the Wonsook Kim College of Fine Arts at Illinois State University. Jean was elected and served as President of the International Council of Fine Arts Deans for several years and appointed President of the National Council of Arts Administrators. She has lobbied in support of arts and education on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C. and traveled the world with students and colleagues to build partnerships in music, theatre, dance, art and design, and creative technologies. Jean earned a B.F.A. degree from St. Cloud State University, an M.F.A. degree from California College of the Arts, and completed graduate studies in arts administration at Harvard University, New York University, and Long Island University.

Jan Spreeman (1964)
Jan Spreeman was a beloved teacher, philosopher and historian who was well-known throughout the St. Croix Valley. During his 33-year career he taught German, history, geography, humanities and philosophy to students at Stillwater Junior High and Stillwater Area High School. He would often engage in debates and discussions with students on philosophical issues. He also co-authored several books for "The Organization of American Historians.” In retirement, Jan taught courses on religion and philosophy to adult learners, and became an active advocate for human rights. He served as a board member of Bantfwana Phambili, an organization that supports young scholars in Africa, and was a member of the Freemasons. He won the Stillwater Human Rights Award in 2012. Jan earned his bachelor and masters degrees in education from the University of Minnesota.