Eight new members will be to the Milaca High School Hall of Fame.

An induction ceremony will be held October 9 at the Milaca High School Cafeteria, according to Dave Leom, chairperson of the Milaca High School Hall of Fame Committee.

The 2021 inductees are: Ben Arenkiel, Ardys ‘Ardy’ Becklin, Evan R. Larson, Linda Lein, Jackie Monroe, Jack Palmer, Eric Sonnek, and Bob Stewart.

Dr. Ben Arenkiel:

Arenkiel is a 1991 graduate of Milaca High School and a 1998 graduate of St. Cloud State University.

He is currently a full professor and holds adjunct positions in the Department of Neuroscience, the Program in Developmental Biology, and the Jan and Dan Duncan Neurological Institute at Texas Children’s Hospital.

Arenkiel is currently investigating how genes and activity interface to build, maintain, and remodel connections in the adult brain.

Ardy Becklin:

Becklin is a 1951 graduate of Milaca High School. She attended the University of Minnesota as a art history major. She also attended the Minneapolis College of Business.

Ardy worked in the insurance industry from 1951 to 2006.

She is a life-long volunteer who has given her time to The Minneapolis Institute of Arts, Milaca Fine Arts Council, Zion Lutheran Church, and numerous Red Cross blood drives. She is also an election judge.

Evan R. Larson:

Larson is a 1998 graduate of Milaca High School who graduated from Willamette University, Salem, Oregon with a BA degree in earth and environmental science.

He went on to earn his MS in geography with a graduate minor in environmental policy from The University of Tennessee, Knoxville and a PhD in geography with a graduate minor in natural resource science and management from the University of Minnesota.

Larson joined the faculty at the University of Wisconsin-Platteville in August of 2009 as an assistant professor of geography and was promoted to the rank of full professor in the fall of 2019. Larson has taught thousands of students through courses on physical geography, climate, fire ecology and management, environmental conservation, and the unique connections between landscape and culture as embodied in the rolling hills and meandering streams of the Driftless Area, in which Platteville is situated.

Linda Lein:

Lein is a 1976 graduate of Milaca High School. She went on to earn her Masters of Fine Arts in Writing from Minnesota State University – Moorhead after receiving her BS degree in English secondary education from Bemidji State University.

Lein was an assistant professor at Minnesota State University Moorhead from 2005-2014. She then went on to become a Liberal Arts English instructor at Alexandria Technical & Community College where she continues to teach.

Linda Lein has been published in many different publications and many books.

Jackie Monroe:

Monroe graduated from Milaca High School in 1998. She went on to graduate from St Cloud State University in 2001 with a Bachelor of Science in mass communications with a focus in journalism.

Jackie Monroe started her first main anchor job at age 23 on television. She is a newsroom leader, mentoring reporters on storytelling, and creative ways to use sound, story structure, impactful writing, character development, and getting the most out of their video. She also recruits new talent for WFIE television in Evansville, Indiana.

Monroe was nominated for an award in the Annual Ohio Valley Regional Emmy Awards for her work, “Shine a Spotlight on Poachers.”

Jack Palmer:

Jack Palmer was a teacher in the Milaca school system from 1974 to 2007.

His 33 years of classroom instruction also included directing over 70 plays, including 33 One Act Plays which earned four appearances at the Minnesota State High School League’s State One Act Play Festival. He also coached the Milaca High School speech team to numerous state entrants and four MSHSL championships.

Eric Sonnek:

Eric Sonnek is a 1996 graduate of Milaca High School. He graduated from the University of Minnesota in 2000 with a degree in animal science.

Today, Sonnek runs one of the top dairy farms in the country.

From 2002-2010, he was an extension educator with the University of Minnesota Extension Service where he worked in Kanabec and Pine counties as a 4-H educator and then as the livestock specialist for Stearns, Benton, and Morrison counties.

Through his successful dairy operation, Sonnek now exhibits at county fairs, the State Fair, and World Dairy Expo and have had many All-American nominations.

In 2019 he was selected as the Minnesota Outstanding Young Breeder and competed in the national contest.

In 2020, his farm received the Progressive Breeders Registry Award, which is given to herds in the nation that meet criteria on cow performance.

Bob Stewart:

A 1954 graduate of Milaca High school, Bob Stewart went on to be a successful track coach at Mound View High School, where he coached from 1963 to 1985.

Stewart’s teams won 10 conference titles, and six section championships. He coached runners who earned four individual state championships, and five state relay state championships.

Bob Stewart left Mounds View to coach at Hamline University for a few years, but returned to Mounds View where his teams won six state true team meets.

The Mounds View High School track is named in Stewart’s honor.

Stewart taught in Mounds view for 35 years, where he was also part of the high school football coaching team for 33 years.


The Milaca High School Hall of Fame began in 2007 when a committee first met with the idea of creating a Hall of Fame to showcase the many successful individuals who are associated with Milaca, in one way or another.

The group came up with the Milaca High School Hall of Fame, in cooperation with the Milaca Public Schools, the Milaca Area Historical Society and the Mille Lacs County Times (Which is now the Union-Times).

The first Hall of Fame Class was presented in 2009. Members of the initial Milaca High School Hall of Fame included Marlain Bruflodt, Herb Claffy, Marian (Hansen) Mjerle, Gerald Lang, Paul Olson, Harold Pluimer and Paul Trimble.

Photographs of the Hall of Fame members are on display at the high school.


Jeff Hage is the managing editor of the Monticello Times. He majored in journalism at the University of Wisconsin- Eau Claire.

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