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Six to be inducted into the Monticello Wall of Fame

Monticello School District is thrilled to announce the upcoming induction of six school community members into the Monticello Wall of Fame. The six honorees are: Sheldon Johnson, Michael Benedetto, Richard Frie, Brad and Kim Sawatzke, and the late Tom Keating.

The Monticello Wall of Fame was originally established to honor Monticello High School graduates who went on to achieve great things. Reintroduced this year after a ten-year hiatus, the Wall of Fame has been reimagined to include both Monticello graduates and individuals that have had a great and lasting impact on Monticello School District.  

“We believe that opening this honor up to include people that have played monumental roles in our district’s history was an important step in creating a Wall of Fame that will carry significant meaning and historical value for years to come,” said Gary Revenig, Monticello High School Activities Director and Chair of the Wall of Fame Committee. “This year’s group of honorees represent decades of excellence within the Monticello School District as well as representation of what Monticello High School graduates can accomplish in this world.”

The Wall of Fame Honorees will be recognized on April 16 during an Induction Ceremony at Monticello High School. Tickets for that friends and family event, which will be catered by Von Hanson’s, are available here. In addition, the honorees will be more publicly recognized this fall at the yet-to-be-scheduled Monticello Homecoming Football Game. More information regarding that event will be available at a later date. 


The Honorees:

Michael “Mike” Benedetto

Mike BenedettoMike Benedetto spent 31 years in Monticello School District Leadership. Benedetto served as Superintendent of Schools for five years (2000-2005). He was originally hired as an Elementary Principal in 1974, before spending the majority of his career (1981-1999) as Assistant Superintendent. Benedetto, who focused on curriculum and instruction during his time as the Assistant Superintendent, is also widely recognized for his steady leadership during challenging financial times in the early 2000s. Some career highlights: Serving as the leader on the build of Little Mountain Elementary, opening Monticello High School, working with the hockey association to get the Moose Sherritt Ice Arena built in Monticello School District, starting an orchestra program at MHS, starting College in Schools at MHS, Charter President of the Monticello Lions, Lion of the Year, Development of the ISD 882 Staff Recognition Program, Development of the first school-wide calendar for families, Chair of Monticello Industrial Development Committee, and Monticello Citizen of the Year (2005). 


Richard “Dick” Frie

Richard FrieRichard “Dick” Frie started his career in Monticello School District in 1954. He served the district as a Teacher, Coach, and Athletic Director (1966-1990) for the next 36 years. Frie coached football, basketball, and baseball during his time in Monticello School District but was most influential as the Athletic Director where he helped develop Monticello into a local athletics powerhouse, growing the district from seven-varsity sports in 1966 to 19-varsity sports by 1990.  Earlier in his career Frie taught both Physical Education and English, and was responsible for starting a Speech class and a Remedial Reading Program in Monticello School District. Notable accomplishments and accolades include: Minnesota Class “AA” Athletic Director of the Year, Minnesota State High School League Hall of Fame, Minnesota State High School League Athletic Directors Hall of Fame, MSHSL Board of Directors, President of Monticello Country Club, and President of the National Athletic Director Association.


Sheldon “Shelly” Johnson

Sheldon JohnsonShelly Johnson served as Superintendent of Schools in Monticello School District from 1973 through 1997, the longest serving superintendent in district history. Johnson was also a teacher and then an Elementary Principal for six years in Monticello prior to becoming Superintendent. In total, Johnson dedicated more than 44 years of his life to public education. Johnson’s numerous awards and accomplishments include: MDE Region 5 Supt. of the Year (1992), Rotary President, Senior Citizen Center Board Member, Monticello Citizen of the Year (1997), and service on several board of directors in the Monticello Community. Two of Johnson’s many lasting contributions to Monticello School District remain in full view today: Johnson served as Building Project Manager for the current Monticello High School and Johnson is responsible for starting the Monticello Scholarship Foundation in 1984. To date, the Monticello Scholarship Foundation has awarded $2.7 million to Monticello graduates seeking continuing education. In addition, Johnson helped start the Industrial Development Commission in Monticello, ushering in an industry boom that would help generate Monticello’s economic growth for decades to come.


Tom Keating

Tom KeatingTom Keating was an instructor and co-founder of the Turning Point Alternative Learning Program in Monticello School District at the time of his tragic death in 2006. Keating made a lasting impact on individuals and the school community as a whole through his work at Turning Point as well as his prior service as Dean of Students, student counselor, and students assistance program director. Keating also traveled the country as a renowned educational speaker. And TK, as he was affectionately known, was the 2004 Minnesota Teacher of the Year, and a recipient of the Paul Harris Fellowship Award for humanitarian work. His legacy lives on through the Tom Keating Foundation which is committed to actively supporting and educating the at-risk youth population in the Central MN Area. 


Brad and Kim Sawatzke

Brad and Kim SawatzkeBrad (Class of 1977) and Kim (Olson) Sawatzke (Class of 1978) are Monticello High School Graduates that have spent decades representing Monticello School District well through local and large-scale service. 

Brad Sawatzke started his career at the Monticello Nuclear Plant as a maintenance worker. By 2005, he was chosen as the Plant Manager of the Monticello Nuclear Generating Plant - the first MHS graduate to hold that position. Sawatzke spent the next 16 years of his career in leadership, serving as the Monticello Plant Manager, the Director of Site Operations at Prairie Island Nuclear Generating Plant, the Chief Nuclear Officer for Energy Northwest, and finally the Chief Executive Officer for Energy Northwest. Sawatzke’s implementation of an Excellence Model helped his plants achieve record-breaking levels of service, power generation, and cost reduction during his time in the industry. Sawatzke also received recognition, including on the floor of the United States House, for his work with state and federal government officials to push for cleaner energy and climate solutions. Sawatzke has also given back to the Monticello community through years spent coaching youth sports in Monticello. 

Kim Sawatzke served on the Monticello School Board for eight years, including time as the Board Chair. Along with Mike Benedetto, her leadership helped steward Monticello School District through trying financial times in the early 2000s as well as into several beneficial partnerships, including the Moose Sherritt Ice Arena.

In addition to her service as a School Board member, Sawatzke raised four Monticello High School graduates and held several administrative jobs throughout her career. Her true passion has lied in volunteering and working with kids. Sawatzke has spent decades as a prominent volunteer in Monticello and in Richland, WA - working with various organizations, from Monticello School District to United Way to provide time, financial resources, and care to students and families in need.