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Four selected as 2021 Distinguished Alumni 

Four individuals will be honored for a lifetime of 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: Julie Kink (Class of 1979); Kami Mendlik (Class of 1991); Marlena Chow Morgan (Class of 1996); and Mark J. Salmen (Class of 1969).

Julie Kink (Class of 1979)
At age 8 Julie Kink lost her brother, a young soldier in Vietnam, but later found her calling as an advocate and resource for Gold Star families, like hers, whose fallen service member died while serving in a time of conflict. She is a founding member of the Family Contacts Committee, a volunteer group that helps veterans and families of the fallen connect with each other to share their memories. Over two decades, she helped more than 500 other Vietnam Gold Star families learn about their loved ones. She has been a speaker at numerous veterans events and worked with the Vietnam Helicopter Pilots Association to erect a monument at Arlington National Cemetery to honor Vietnam helicopter pilots and crew members killed during the war. A trained journalist, Julie also served her local community as a newspaper reporter and Public Relations Coordinator at HOPE Adoption and Family Services. She has worked as the recording secretary for the City of Stillwater since 2012.

Kami Mendlik (Class of 1991)
Kami Mendlik is a nationally and internationally recognized landscape painter, as well as an author, teacher and business owner. Her beautiful oil paintings, which capture many scenes from around the St. Croix Valley, have been featured in magazines, juried exhibitions and galleries across the country. In 2008 she founded the St. Croix River School of Painting in Stillwater where she teaches other artists from around the world the fundamentals of representational painting with a special emphasis on color. She has given back to her local community by serving as an artist in residence in several elementary schools and raising funds to support art programs across the Stillwater Area Public School District. Kami is a signature member of both the American Woman Artists and American Impressionist Society and has earned recognition as a Master Impressionist Painter and Master Teacher of Color and Light.

Marlena Chow Morgan (Class of 1996)
An early passion for music turned into a full-time career for Marlena Chow Morgan. She has spent her career as a violinist performing with some of the world’s top musicians. After graduating from Stillwater, Marlena received her Bachelor of Music in violin performance at the New England Conservatory in Boston, Massachusetts and spent a year as a Fellow at the New World Symphony in Miami Beach. Marlena has been a member of the Naples Philharmonic since 2001 and also joined the Grammy Award winning Santa Fe Opera Orchestra in 2003. As a soloist and chamber musician, she has appeared with the Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra, the National Repertory Orchestra in Breckenridge, Colorado, the New World Symphony, the Civic Orchestra of Minneapolis, the Musicorda Summer String Program, and held Fellowships at the Tanglewood and Aspen Music Festivals. She has also been a guest artist with the Chamber Music Society of Minnesota and the Headwaters Music Festival. In addition to reaching out to the community and schools through concerts as a member of the Naples Philharmonic, Marlena mentors the next generations as a Suzuki violin teacher in Naples, Florida, where she lives with her husband Marc and daughter Rose.  

Mark J. Salmen, Captain, U.S. Navy (Ret.) (Class of 1969)
Service has always been a way of life for Mark Salmen. Upon graduation from high school, he was appointed to the United States Naval Academy. He began a career that spanned 34 years of active and reserve Naval Service. Upon release from active duty, Mark worked for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the Federal Aviation Administration and Northwest/Delta Airlines where he spent 29 years in Ground Operations, Flight Operations and Operations Control departments. He has given back to his local community as a coach, a Boy Scout leader and volunteer for Toys-For-Tots, Boys and Girls Clubs and Adopt-A-Highway. He has also served as a mentor to disadvantaged youth. Mark was appointed by the Governor of Minnesota as the public representative on two separate State Public Safety Training and Facilities review committees and received Governor’s Commendations for his service. He has also actively served on the Saint Paul Festival and Heritage Foundation and the Saint Paul Winter Carnival in numerous capacities.

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