Abercrombie, McDonough and Valsvik Round Out Stillwater’s Class of 2017 Distinguished Alumni

Stillwater Area Public School’s 2017 Distinguished Alumni include include a pioneering female photographer, a former White House chief of staff and respected member of the local media.

Marilyn Abercrombie, Class of 1948; Denis McDonough, Class of 1988; and Lee Valsvik, Class of 1978 will be honored for a lifetime of distinction after graduating from Stillwater Area High School.

Abercrombie, McDonough and Valsvik will be honored at a special dinner on Friday, June 2, and again the next day at Roy Wilkins Auditorium during the commencement ceremony for Stillwater Area High School’s Class of 2017.

The dinner event at Lake Elmo Inn Event Center is open to the public and is sponsored by the high school and The Partnership Plan. This year’s distinguished alumni will join more than 80 others who have been honored with the award since in began in 1987.

From Stillwater Area Public Schools:

Marilyn “Lynn” (Bruette) Abercrombie, Class of 1948

Lynn Abercrombie traveled the world capturing rare images of exotic locations as an accomplished freelance photographer for the National Geographic magazine. Her career spanned more than three decades, with assignments to all of the seven continents.

Marilyn “Lynn” (Bruette) Abercrombie

As a female photographer in a male-dominated profession, she served as an example of success for aspiring women. She traveled with her husband, award-winning photographer Thomas Abercrombie, to many isolated and forbidding places which had never been seen by Americans.

In a time before the Internet and globalization, Abercrombie gave the nebulous idea of “foreign” faces feelings and identities in the minds of National Geographic subscribers.

As a complement to Thomas, Lynn’s freelance contributions to the National Geographic provided a feminine side to the story.

Women and children felt more at ease being photographed by Lynn, and she was allowed to visit places often off-limits to men. Abercrombie also preserved and expanded her family’s legacy by editing and publishing the book, Travelling the World for National Geographic, which her husband wrote about their assignments.

She graduated from Macalester College in 1952 with a degree in journalism.

Denis McDonough, Class of 1988

As White House chief of staff for President Barack Obama, Denis McDonough held a position commonly known as the second-most powerful job in America.

Denis McDonough

McDonough led the White House for the President’s entire second term – first as deputy national security advisor and then as chief of staff  – and played a definitive role in shaping U.S. national security policy.

From managing Russian aggression to new challenges in Asia, to terrorism and cybersecurity threats, McDonough understood the global factors that impact modern organizations and helped audiences identify the risks and opportunities that lie ahead.

Upon McDonough’s appointment to chief of staff in 2013, President Obama said, “Were it not for him, we wouldn’t be as effective a White House,” additionally noting that he relied on McDonough’s intellect, judgment and indispensable advice.

Prior to becoming one of the president’s closest advisors, McDonough worked as an aide to the House Foreign Affairs Committee, and served as a senior foreign policy advisory.

He graduated from Saint John’s University with a B.A. summa cum laude in history and Spanish, traveled extensively throughout Latin America and taught high school in Belize.

He graduated from Georgetown University’s Edmund A. Walsh School of Foreign Service.

Lee Valsvik, Class of 1978

Lee Valsvik began her radio and television career in the 1980s, and grew to become one of the best-known media personalities in the Twin Cities metro area — the result of an accidental career choice.

Lee Valsvik

She originally went to Bemidji State University to study pre-med, but became interested in radio broadcasting after seeing a job opening at a local radio station.

In her career she worked for five of the metro’s largest radio stations and became a regular on television, making weekly appearances on KARE 11’s Saturday morning news program.

During the late 80s and early 90s, the KDWB Morning Show that she co-hosted with Steve Cochran made 101.3 FM the top contemporary hit radio station in the Twin Cities.

When not hosting her own radio show or appearing on television spots, Lee continually gives back to the community as a talented emcee for community fundraising events, always stimulating an engaged audience to support community growth.

She also serves on the Stillwater Foundation Board, and has worked to spearhead a youth-driven philanthropy program.