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Chapman University Alumni

Distinguished Alumni Awards

» Celebrating and Honoring the Incredible Accomplishments of our Chapman Alumni

Friday, October 9, 2020 | 7 p.m.
Bert C. Williams Mall, Chapman University

The Distinguished Alumni Awards honor Chapman University alumni who are making significant contributions to businesses, organizations and communities.

The event features a hosted wine and beer, plus a signature cocktail; a culinary adventure with a variety of food stations; featured entertainment throughout the evening; and networking and mixing in a lounge setting. Business/cocktail attire requested.

A portion of every ticket sold goes directly to the Chapman Fund, which supprorts a broad array of needs including, scholarships, faculty excellence, student enrichment, and the University's emerging needs.

2019 Distinguished Alumni Awardees

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Argyros School of Business and Economics Award

nell ogrady Nella Webster O'Grady '71

Nella Webster O’Grady earned her Bachelor’s degree in Economics and Business Administration from Chapman University in 1971.  She later earned an M.B.A. from California State University, Long Beach.  Nella also earned the Certified Financial Planner designation some thirty years ago.

Since graduating from Chapman University, Nella put her education to good use in the Financial Services sector.  She held senior management roles at U.S. Trust, Wilmington Trust, First American Trust and First Foundation Bank.  In recent years, she has been a Principal at Palo Capital in Newport Beach, along with her husband, Kevin O’Grady.  Palo Capital recently merged with Miracle Mile Advisors, where she continues to be active with marketing and client services. 

Outside of the workplace, Nella has always made time for giving back to Chapman and to the community at large.  She currently serves on the board of directors of the Girl Scouts of Orange County and chairs the Friends of the Girl Scouts Trust.  She has served on the Board of Counselors for Chapman University’s Argyros School of Business for ten years  Nella is on the Plasticos Foundation board and the Women Helping Women advisory board.  She is the membership chair for the Pacific Symphony 100 and the Program Chair for the Big Canyon/Spyglass Hill Philharmonic Committee.  Nella served on the Orange County board of the United Way for nine years.  She chaired the Tocqueville Society and the Women’s Philanthropy Fund, of which she was the founder.

In 2011, Nella was a Girl Scouts of Orange County Celebrate Leadership honoree.  In 2015 she received the Philanthropist of the Year award from the Orange County United Way.  In 2016 she received the Orange County Business Journal’s Women In Business Award.  In 2018, Nella and her husband received the Corporate Humanitarian Award from Plasticos Foundation, and most recently, Nella was named as one of the Top 100 Financial Advisors in the United States by Investopedia.

In addition, Nella chaired and co-chaired the Chapman Entrepreneur of the Year program.  She and her husband hired four interns from Chapman University and gave them meaningful work experience at Palo Capital.  Each one of those interns went on to gain full time employment in the financial services industry.

Nella has been a generous benefactor to Chapman University over a long period of time, and her generosity will continue with a Legacy planned gift through the Chapman Heritage Society.  Nella has also been a member of Chapman Town and Gown for over thirty years.

Attallah College of Educational Studies Award

karen bolton Dr. Karen Bolton (M.A. ’02) 

Dr. Karen J. Bolton is a tenured professor teaching Organizational Leadership at Olympic College. Karen holds a Doctorate of Education from Brandman University, an M.A. in Organizational Leadership from Chapman University, and a B.S. in Workforce Education Development from Southern Illinois University. She is the recipient of the 2018 YWCA Woman of Achievement Award for Education, 2018 Award of Excellence in Leadership from the Community and Technical College Leadership Development Association, and the 2019 Faculty of the Year Award. 

Karen’s work with education programs began with a twenty-year career in the Navy, where she trained and mentored leaders in supervisory positions at all levels. Throughout her adult life, she knew the importance of obtaining an education and achieving your educational goals.

Karen’s perseverance, determination, and a family legacy motivate her to reject being another high school dropout with no future and led her to becoming a college graduate with a doctorate.  One of Karen’s favorite sayings is from poet laureate Maya Angelou and says, “My mission in life is not merely to survive, but to thrive; and to do so with some passion, some compassion, some humor, and some style”.

School of Communication Award

nader baroukh Nader Baroukh '94

Nader received his B.A. in Legal Studies and Psychology from Chapman University and his J.D. from the University of Virginia, School of Law in 1999, where he was Manuscript Editor of the Virginia Journal of Social Policy and the Law. 

He is a Harry S. Truman Scholar.  Prior to law school, Nader worked at the Department of Justice, Criminal Division, Office of Policy and Legislation. Nader is an avid cyclist and committed civic leader, formerly severing as the Mayor and also a Councilmember for the City of Falls Church in Virginia.    

Nader Baroukh is the Associate General Counsel for Immigration at the Department of Homeland Security, Office of the General Counsel.  Prior to his current position, he served the Department in several key roles at U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) including serving as Deputy Principal Legal Advisor for Litigation and the Deputy Chief of the National Security Law Division.  Nader began his legal career through the Department of Justice’s Honors program where he served as an attorney with the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS), Los Angeles District Counsel’s office.  While at INS, Nader worked on a number of national security and complex fraud-related cases. 


Crean College of Health and Behavioral Sciences Award

richard coury Richard Coury '94 (MPT '96) OCS, ATC, CSCS  

Rich Coury received his Bachelor of Science in ’94 and his Master of Physical Therapy in 1996 at Chapman University. He lives in Orange California with his wife Cindi and three boys, Michael, Elijah, and Matthew.  He enjoys working out and wine tasting.  Rich is active in the community as a youth sports coach and serves on Crean College’s Leadership Council and Chapman University’s DPT External Advisory Committee. 

Rich is cofounder of Coury and Buehler Physical Therapy (CBPT).  His practice has been recognized as Top Practice in the Nation by Advance Magazine, named to the Inc 5000 list fastest growing companies six consecutive years, and recognized as one of OC Register Top Work Places.  CBPT is the only private practice in Orange County which has an APTA credentialed orthopedic residency and employees many Chapman University alumni. 

Dodge College of Film and Media Arts Award

maileen matheny Maileen Williams Matheny '04 

Maileen Williams Matheny was accepted into the highly competitive DGA Trainee Program directly after graduating from Chapman University in 2004. Her training as an assistant director on television series and films (such as "ER" and "Deadwood"), catapulted her career in the entertainment industry. From there she went on to 2nd 2nd and Key 2nd AD various HBO and Showtime television series, David Fincher films (“The Social Network”, “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo”), and was promoted to 1st Assistant Director on Joss Whedon’s “Much Ado About Nothing”. Joss brought her on to 1st AD additional photography on "The Avengers" and the TV series "Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D." She continued her 1st AD career with such highlights as "True Detective" season 2, and Netflix's "Everything Sucks" (with fellow Chapman alumni Michael Mohan, Ben York Jones, and Elisha Christian).  

Maileen has co-produced several independent features (including Mohan’s Sundance film “Save the Date”), and most recently wrapped HBO’s “Ballers” season 5 as an Associate Producer/1st AD. 

Fowler School of Law Award

sammuel mirjovsky Samuel Mirejovsky '11 (JD ’14)

For more than 20 years, Samuel Mirejovsky has been a respected leader within the legal community.  He and fellow Chapman alumna Ashley Watkins (JD '14) founded Sam & Ash, LLP, a personal injury firm based in Las Vegas and Newport Beach.  Sam is also the co-founder of CASEpeer, a market-leading software company.  Sam's innovative approach to practice development and legal technology has helped transform the personal injury business.

Sam interrupted a successful career - and a busy family life - to finish his undergraduate degree and attend law school.  Five long years (and three children/no divorce) later, Sam graduated from both Chapman University and the Chapman University Fowler School of Law.  His background as a working student inspired Sam to fund a scholarship in support of professionals re-entering academic life as law students at Chapman.

Sam is a proud "Double Panther" and serves on the Chapman University Board of Governors.  He is married to Sherri Mirejovsky, and together, they are the loving parents of Daniel, Vera, and Eva.

College of Performing Arts Award

efrain solis Efrain Solis '11

The San Francisco Chronicle exclaims, “For theatrical charisma and musical bravado, it would be hard to top the performance of baritone Efraín Solís.” He is a recent graduate of the San Francisco Opera Adler Fellowship and while with the company, sang his first performances of Papageno in Die Zauberflöte, Dandini in La cenerentola, Schaunard in La bohème, Silvano in Un ballo in maschera, Sciarrone in Tosca, and Prince Yamadori in Madama Butterfly. In the 2018-19 season, he joins Utah Opera to reprise Mercutio in Roméo et Juliette. A proponent of Spanish repertoire, he sings his first performances of El Payador in Piazzola’s Maria de Buenos Aires with Opera Southwest, returns to his beloved characterization of Mark in Martinez’s Cruzar la cara de la Luna with El Paso Opera, and joins the New York Festival of Song again for a program of Lorca songs. Future engagements include a return to Virginia Opera and his debut with Fort Worth Opera. Last season he joined both Houston Grand Opera’s HGOCo and New York City Opera as Mark in Martinez’s Cruzar la cara de la Luna. He also returned to West Edge Opera in his home state of California to debut the role of Golaud in Pelléas et Mélisande and joined Washington Concert Opera as Fiesque in Maria di Rohan. On the concert stage, he sang his first performances of Mahler’s Lieder eines fahrenden Gesellen with the Palo Alto Philharmonic, Handel’s Messiah with the Las Vegas Philharmonic, Brahms’ Ein deutsches Requiem as a guest artist at Concordia College, and concerts of opera favorites with both Opera Delaware and Baltimore Concert Opera.

Other recent performances for the baritone include Mercutio in Roméo et Juliette with Opera Carolina, Virginia Opera, and Toledo Opera; Figaro in Le nozze di Figaro with Opera Memphis and Livermore Valley Opera; Slook in La cambiale di matrimonio with Nicholas McGegan conducting Philharmonia Baroque; Glass’ Hydrogen Jukebox with West Edge Opera; and Dick in Blitzstein’s The Cradle Will Rock with Opera Saratoga. He joined the New Century Chamber Orchestra and Nadja Salerno-Sonnenberg as Gaspar in a semi-staged production of Donizetti’s Rita and a Gershwin gala, the Berkeley Community Chorus and Orchestra for Britten’s War Requiem, and the New Choral Society for Handel’s Messiah. An active recitalist, he has previous joined Steven Blier and the New York Festival of Song for its Compositora program and has been presented in a Schwabacher Debut Recital in San Francisco and offered an additional recital program at the El Camino College Center for the Arts.

He is an alumnus of the prestigious Merola Opera Program in association with San Francisco Opera, at which he sang Junius in The Rape of Lucretia and covered Count Almaviva in Le nozze di Figaro. He is also a former member of Opera Santa Barbara’s Studio Artist Program. In 2013, he was a Grand Finalist in the Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions and sang arias from Rodelinda and Le nozze di Figaro on the famed company’s stage with Marco Armilianto conducting. He was also a finalist in Houston Grand Opera's Eleanor McCollum Competition. He holds a Master of Music from San Francisco Conservatory of Music, at which he sang Guglielmo in Così fan tutte and Mahler’s Lieder eines fahrenden Gesellen and while at Chapman University, his performances included Beethoven’s Mass in C and Puccini’s Messa di Gloria.

School of Pharmacy Award

hung do Hung Do M.S. '16

As a marketing and researcher development professional, Mr. Hung Do is passionate about fostering a better understanding of public-private partnerships of biopharmaceutical research while demonstrating knowledge of federal and state legislative and regulatory process to solve policy positions and issues with health science thought leaders at the American Association of Pharmaceutical Scientists (AAPS) in Southern California. In the last five years, his work at AAPS represents the biopharmaceutical industry to third parties, provides industry value, and leads both large and small grassroots mobilization and coalition marketing developments. Mr. Do also supports working relationships and collaborates with local government officials and development consultants to provide scientific-based evidence that makes a case for a market-based healthcare system in California. His development team also improves the access for patients in Southern California to receive relevant quality healthcare information through community development projects in Orange County with strategic alliance partners at the organization. Because of his work and leadership experience at the organization, he also serves as a healthcare advocate for Councilmember Peggy Huang and Assemblywoman Young Kim.

Mr. Do has been deeply committed to and involved at Chapman University. He currently sits on the Board of Directors for the School of Pharmacy where he is committed to be an industry relations board member and support the school’s strategic plans and works to broaden industry relationships for school development, research collaboration and patient safety advocacy. Many of his colleagues describe Hung as a collaborative, proactive, self-starter who is passionate about access to innovative medicines and addressing the healthcare challenges with strategic thought leaders in the health science sector. His work and leadership experiences demonstrated success in developing and implementing strategic alliances to support the mission and values at AAPS and Chapman University.

Schmid College of Science and Technology Award

ryan van ramshorst Ryan D. Van Ramshorst, MD, MPH, FAAP ’06

Dr. Ryan Van Ramshorst is proud to serve as the Chief Medical Director for Medicaid/CHIP Services at the Texas Health and Human Services Commission. In this role, Dr. Van Ramshorst serves as the lead physician for the Texas Medicaid program, which provides needed health services to over 4 million Texans. He supervises the Office of the Medical Director, responsible for providing clinical direction and oversight of managed care and fee-for-service programs.

Dr. Van Ramshorst completed undergraduate studies in biology and Spanish at Chapman University in Orange, California. He then completed medical school at the Baylor College of Medicine in Houston and subsequently completed internship, residency, chief residency and fellowship in Academic General Pediatrics at the University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio (UTHSCSA). During his fellowship training he graduated from the University of Texas School of Public Health with a Master’s degree in Public Health. His work experience includes practice in an underserved community on the south side of San Antonio as part of a National Health Service Corps Scholarship service commitment. He previously served as faculty at UTHSCSA in the Department of Pediatrics. While at UTHSCSA, Dr. Van Ramshorst was active in clinical care, teaching, advocacy, and educational research. He also served as Co-Medical Director of the UT Teen Health Clinic in downtown San Antonio.

His professional interests include health policy (specifically Medicaid/CHIP), physician advocacy, and medical education. He is active in the Texas Pediatric Society (TPS) and the Texas Medical Association (TMA). Prior to beginning his career in state government, he served as Chair of the TMA Select Committee on Medicaid, CHIP, and the Uninsured, testifying nearly 20 times in front of the Texas legislature on Medicaid, CHIP and other children’s health issues.

Dr. Van Ramshorst is Board Certified in General Pediatrics and is a Fellow of the American Academy of Pediatrics. He continues to see patients on a volunteer, part-time basis as adjunct faculty at UTHSCSA.

He has been married for over 10 years to Dr. Christine Van Ramshorst, an obstetrician/gynecologist in private practice. His personal interests include spending time with his wife, soccer, traveling, running, cooking, and Star Wars.

Wilkinson College of Arts, Humanities, and Social Sciences Award

katie wonnenberg Katie Vlietstra Wonnenberg '03

Katie Vlietstra Wonnenberg is vice president of government relations and public affairs for the National Association for the Self-Employed, representing the 27 million self-employed, and is a co-founder and principal of a boutique, D.C. based consulting firm, Public Private Strategies, which harnesses power of the private sector to drive desired policy and market outcomes. Her professional experience includes passage of federal legislation, securing federal appropriations and petitioning for executive action on important policy issues. Katie is a frequent contribution to the New York Times, Washington Post and the Wall Street Journal, and has appeared on C-SPAN, FOX and MSNBC.

Katie is the current international president of Phi Sigma Sigma, an organization she joined as a first semester freshman at Chapman University. Through this role she is able to cultivate the next generation of women leaders through the sorority experience. She is the past president of Women in Government Relations, the largest professional organization for women in Washington, D.C. and past president of Women Under Forty Political Action Committee, established to financially support women, regardless of party affiliation, women running for office. Other volunteer experiences include Special Olympics, Chapman Alumni Association and director of the Phi Sigma Sigma Foundation.

Katie earned a B.A. in History from Chapman University and was the recipient of the Gloria and Julian Peterson Award. She has an M.A from George Mason University. She and her husband, David, reside in Washington, D.C.

Young Alumni Award

scott levit Scott Levitt, (JD ’03, LL.M '10) 

Scott Levitt received a Bachelor of Science degree in Business Management from CSULB. One year later, at the same university, he received his Masters in Business Administration degree at the age of 22, the youngest at the time in the school's history.

Mr. Levitt received his Juris Doctorate degree from Chapman University School of Law with an emphasis in Real Estate, Land Use, and Environmental Law. He worked the maximum number of hours allowed by the ABA, and was the only member of his class to graduate a semester early. Mr. Levitt entered Chapman on a full tuition Provost Scholar Scholarship and served as the class commencement speaker. He served as Chairperson of the Honor Council, served on the Mock Trial Board and competed at several competitions. He also served as an editor of the Nexus Law Journal. Mr. Levitt received his Masters in Law degree (LL.M.), from Chapman University School of Law, specializing in Business Law and Economics, graduating in the top 10% of the class. He studied directly under the 2002 Nobel Prize winner in Economics. Mr. Levitt received top grades in Spontaneous Order & the Law, and Adv. Seminar in Land Use Dispute.

Mr. Levitt served as General Counsel right out of law school for almost a decade to a mid-size construction and real estate development company. From there he started his own firm in 2012 serving companies in all industries. He started with one client and today has served close to 400. In February of this year, he took a case to the California Supreme Court.

Mr. Levitt has taught college courses in both law and finance at Chapman University at the Business School and Law School. He often teaches MCLE classes in the area of construction law and mechanic lien law. He is a member of the State Bar of California, and admitted to the U.S. District Court, the Supreme Court of the United States, the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, and the US Court of Federal Claims. Mr. Levitt is also a licensed real estate broker and general contractor. Mr. Levitt is active in his community and in political circles. He served as the Chairperson on the Chapman School of Law Alumni Board and has been a member of the group for 15 years. He has also served and continues to active service in the Seal Beach Chamber of Commerce, and is a member of the Seal Beach Lions Club.

He is the past president and vice-president and director for the Seal Beach Chamber of Commerce, is ember of the Seal Beach Lions Club. He was voted best attorney in Seal Beach in 2019 and 2017, and Seal Beach Business Person of the Year in 2015. Mr. Levitt was a Republican primary candidate for Lieutenant Governor in 2010, for the State of California.

Past Honorees

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2018 Distinguished Alumni Awardees

Akin Ceylan '90 - Chapman Experience Award

Randy Jones '72 - Athletics Award 

Alex Hayden '95 - Argyros School of Business and Economics Award

Carl Cohn, M.A. '72 - Attallah College of Educational Studies Award

Rebecca Hall '96 - School of Communication Award

Michael Pahl '66 - Crean College of Health and Behavioral Sciences Award

Kathleen Remington '05 - Dodge College of Film and Media Arts Award

Steven Ruden (JD '05) - Fowler School of Law

Cara Lawler '11- College of Performing Arts

Amir Shirazi (Pharm.D. '18) - School of Pharmacy

Becky Wanta 19'91 - Schmid College of Science and Technology

Kristyn von Rotz '01 - Wilkinson College of Arts, Humanities, and Social Sciences

2017 Distinguished Alumni Awardees

The Honorable George L. Argyros '58 - Bert C. Williams Lifetime Service Award: Highest Award of Distinction

Ken Bunt '93 - Wilkinson College of Arts, Humanities, and Social Sciences

Kelly Vlahakis-Hanks (EMBA '16) - George L. Argyros School of Business and Economics

Elim Kay '09 - School of Communication

Justin Simien '05 - Dodge College of Film and Media Arts

Elizabeth Tierney, M.A. '80 - Attallah College of Film and Media Arts

Stephen Thorne, (MHA '94) - Crean College of Health and Behavioral Sciences

Dr. Zeinab H. Dabbah (JD '12) - Fowler School of Law

Keith Hancock '02, (M.A. '04) - College of Performing Arts

Soliel K. Doman, M.S. '16 - School of Pharmacy

Dr. Richard Pitts '70 - Schmid College of Science and Technology

Erin J. Lastinger '88 - Athletics Award

Behzad Binesh, MBA '79 - Alumni Staff Award

Jennifer Backhaus '94 - Alumni Faculty Award

Maci Peterson '09 - Young Alumni Award

2020 Distinguished Alumni Nominations

The Chapman University Distinguished Alumni Awards recognize alumni who have made significant contributions to businesses, organizations and communities.

Nominations will be accepted through Sunday, May 31, 2020.

Nomination forms can be found here.

Contact the Office of Alumni Engagement, at alumni@chapman.edu or (714) 997-6681 with any questions.

Homecoming at Chapman University 2017

The Chapman Family Homecoming Celebration

October 9-10, 2020

Homecoming is packed with activities to celebrate all things Chapman. Save the date to join us this fall.

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