NEW YORK MILLS — The New York Mills Regional Cultural Center announces four finalists from the essay contest portion of the Great American Think-Off. These four essayists each win $500 and a weekend trip in June to New York Mills to participate in the live philosophical debate.

During the debate, the finalists argue their side of the question, “Which is more important: to win or to play by the rules?” Two finalists will assert that winning is more important, while the other two finalists will argue that playing by the rules is more important.

The debate among the four armchair philosophers is June 12. The finalists will be available to meet the public June 11 at the Great American Think-Off Kick-Off at the New York Mills Regional Cultural Center during a Philosophers and Artists Reception. In addition to honoring the Think-Off finalists, the reception will also feature regional visual artists on display in the Gallery’s “Happiness Project” exhibit. The reception is preceded by a Historical Walking Tour of downtown New York Mills, hosted by the Otter Tail County Historical Society.

The four finalists are AJ Gil of Atlanta; Angela Stehr of St. Paul; Bill Sutherland of Eden Prairie; and Daniel Tschida of Minneapolis. Gil and Stehr will argue it is more important to win, while Sutherland and Tschida will argue it is more important to play by the rules.

 AJ Gil is among the four finalists from the essay contest portion of the Great American Think-Off.  The Think-Off kicks off June 11 at the New York Mills Regional Cultural Center. Submitted Photo
AJ Gil is among the four finalists from the essay contest portion of the Great American Think-Off. The Think-Off kicks off June 11 at the New York Mills Regional Cultural Center. Submitted Photo

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Gil is a writer from Gainesville, Florida, currently living in Atlanta. He's a graduate of the University of Florida and the Villanova University School of Law. He writes about politics, sports, and comedy and spends his remaining time trying to entertain his wife and cat, a news release stated.

Angie Stehr is among the four finalists from the essay contest portion of the Great American Think-Off.  The Think-Off kicks off June 11 at the New York Mills Regional Cultural Center. Submitted Photo
Angie Stehr is among the four finalists from the essay contest portion of the Great American Think-Off. The Think-Off kicks off June 11 at the New York Mills Regional Cultural Center. Submitted Photo

Stehr is an administrative assistant at the Minnesota Institute for Astrophysics at the University of Minnesota. She has master's degrees in classics from the University of Cincinnati and in museum studies from the Institute of Archaeology at University College London. She thinks of herself as a Think-Off “groupie” and has only missed one Think-Off since 2008, a news release stated. She likes women’s hockey, Goldie Gopher, going to concerts, knitting, reading and gardening. Her garden has a continuously increasing focus on pollinators and she has taken to nurturing caterpillars from eggs to butterflies in the summer. She lives in St. Paul with her husband Mark.

Bill Sutherland is among the four finalists from the essay contest portion of the Great American Think-Off.  The Think-Off kicks off June 11 at the New York Mills Regional Cultural Center. Submitted Photo
Bill Sutherland is among the four finalists from the essay contest portion of the Great American Think-Off. The Think-Off kicks off June 11 at the New York Mills Regional Cultural Center. Submitted Photo

Sutherland has been in the consulting engineering business for some 40 years, including the founding of MinnTech Engineering Consulting Engineers in 1984. A native Minneapolitan, he graduated from the University of Minnesota Institute of Technology, now known as the College of Science and Engineering, and has a degree in electrical engineering. Sutherland earned his professional engineer license for Minnesota in 1978. Sutherland and his wife Pam have two grown daughters. He enjoys spending time with his family, and outdoors at their retreat in Grand Marais.

Dan Tschida is among the four finalists from the essay contest portion of the Great American Think-Off.  The Think-Off kicks off June 11 at the New York Mills Regional Cultural Center. Submitted Photo
Dan Tschida is among the four finalists from the essay contest portion of the Great American Think-Off. The Think-Off kicks off June 11 at the New York Mills Regional Cultural Center. Submitted Photo

Tschida has lived in south Minneapolis for the past 25 years with his wife Karen Janisch and has two teenage daughters. For the past 17 years, Tschida has been teaching social studies at Columbia Heights High School. Prior to that, he was a lawyer at a large Minneapolis law firm. After law school, he clerked for a justice on the Idaho Supreme Court, a judge in Hennepin County, and a Magistrate Judge in U.S. District Court. Tschida has a bachelor's in history from Northwestern University in Illinois, a law degree from the University of Minnesota and an education degree from the University of St. Thomas.

The public is invited to attend the live debate starting at 7 p.m. June 12. Tickets to attend the live debate are $12 in advance, or $15 at the door; students are $5. All audience members get to vote in the contest to decide who will have the title of America’s Greatest Thinker for 2021.

COVID-19 safety guidelines will be followed at all Think-Off events, including masks, distancing, and limited attendance. Those who are not well, should not attend.

For more information or to buy tickets, call the Cultural Center at 218-385-3339, visit the Center's website at kulcher.org, or get tickets at thinkoff2021.bpt.me/.