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Chapman University Alumni

Distinguished Alumni Awards

» Celebrating and Honoring the Incredible Accomplishments of our Chapman Alumni

Friday, October 4, 2019 | 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.

Join us for an evening of mixing, mingling and merriment as we celebrate our 2019 honorees and kick off The Chapman Family Homecoming Celebration.

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.


The nomination period for the 2019 Chapman University Distinguished Alumni Awards has closed.

Award recipients have been selected collaboratively by the Distinguished Alumni Awards Committee of the Chapman University Alumni Association Board of Directors, deans and representatives of the schools and colleges, and other University leaders.

Learn more about the recipients of the 2018 Distinguished Alumni Awards.

2018 Distinguished Alumni Awardees

+ - Chapman Experience Award

akin ceylan

Akin Ceylan ’90
COO Lionsgate Film and Home Entertainment
Chapman Experience Award Honoree

Akin Ceylan received his BSBA Management from Chapman University Argyros School of Business and Economics in 1990 and received a Certificate in Contract Management from the University of California Irvine in 1995.  He is also a Licensed California Real Estate Broker since 2008. 

Akin also serves as a Trustee of Chapman University, is President of the Alumni Association, and sits on the Advisory Board for the Dodge College of Film and Media Arts.

Akin has spent the last 19 years in the Entertainment industry and is currently the COO of Home Entertainment and Global Content Delivery for Lionsgate.  Akin joined Lionsgate in October 2005 and sets the strategic direction for Operations in Home Entertainment and is responsible for all of the International Theatrical Delivery and Digital Delivery to all platforms globally that is backed by a 16,000-title film and tv library and distributed through a global licensing structure.  Akin oversees all activities related to technical operations, manufacturing and distribution for Digital & Physical Media content, system development, supplier partner agreements & relationships, and operational governance - all with an emphasis on revenue maximization & cost efficiency, collaboration & execution, and service & performance. 

Akin also served as SVP Domestic Operations at MGM Studios and was responsible for overseeing the Home Entertainment Group’s operational activities for North America where he played a key role in the development and start-up of distribution for the MGM library of content.

Before joining MGM Studios in 1999, Akin’s tenure in retail spanned 19 years.  He began his career with Dixie Farms Markets as a Clerks Helper in 1980. Soon after, he joined the Lucky Stores division of American Stores Company and spent the next 14 years working in various capacities in both divisional and corporate headquarters.  Akin held the following positions; Clerk, Grocery Store Manager, Replenishment Buyer, Replenishment Analyst, and National Inventory Manager.  

In 1997, Akin joined Gelson’s Markets as a Grocery Category Buyer where he was responsible for developing category plans and pricing strategies to maximize margin and sales targets for an assigned group of categories.

+ - Athletics Award

randy j

Randy Jones ’72
Owner, Randy Jones BBQ
Athletics Honoree

A four-year letter winner for Chapman from 1969-72, Jones won 27 games including 11 and 12 games in 1970 and '72 respectively and was named the Panthers' most valuable pitcher in each season. He earned All-America honors as a senior when he helped Chapman to 38 wins and a runner-up finish at the NCAA Far West Regionals. Jones set school records for strikeouts in a season (155 in '72) and career (311).

Upon graduation, Jones was drafted in the fifth round of the MLB amateur draft by the San Diego Padres and reached the big leagues the very next season. He fast became a Padres legend, winning 20 games in 1975, leading the NL with a 2.24 ERA and finishing runner-up in the Cy Young voting. The following year he won the award with a record of 22-14, 2.74 ERA and led the league with 25 complete games. Over his 10-year Major League career he won 100 games and was selected to two All-Star Games.

In 1985, Jones' jersey No. 10 was retired by Chapman.

+ - Argyros School of Business and Economics Award

Alex HaydenAlex Hayden ’95
Executive Vice President, CBRE
Argyros School of Business and Economics Honoree

Mr. Hayden has been a real estate professional based in Southern California since 1995. Mr. Hayden specializes in Multi Market Corporate Real Estate Advisory Services. He has conducted transaction and consulting assignments in excess of 10 million square feet and specializes in portfolio planning and site acquisition transactions on behalf of financial institutions, professional services firms, major logistics organizations, Restaurant industry, and the Engineering industry.

Mr. Hayden was recognized at Cushman & Wakefield as an Executive Director. Along with his partners, Mr. Hayden was recruited to Cushman & Wakefield from their practice at CBRE where they were celebrated as the top tenant representation team in Orange County and where Mr. Hayden was a key leader in the development of strategic planning for corporate clients. In the past seven years, Mr. Hayden has been involved in numerous aspects of the business, including: acquisition, disposition, lease, build-to-suits, and sale of real estate valued at over $1.5 billion.

Alex Hayden was recently promoted as Executive Vice President of CBRE, the world's largest commercial real estate services firm serving owners, investors and occupiers.

Mr. Hayden is a member of the Advisory Board for the Roger C. Hobbs Institute for Real Estate, Law and Environmental Studies at Chapman University. Additionally, Mr. Hayden serves as a member of the Board of Directors for YMCA of Orange County and a member of The Ferrari Club of America. Mr. Hayden graduated from Chapman University with a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration with an emphasis in Finance. Mr. Hayden and his wife Lori live in San Juan Capistrano, California and have two children, Charlie and Caroline.

+ - Attallah College of Educational Studies Award

carlCarl Cohn (M.A. ’72)
Executive Director California Collaborative for Educational Excellence (CCEE)
Attallah College of Educational Studies Honoree

Carl A. Cohn is on leave from Claremont Graduate University to direct the California Collaborative for Educational Excellence, a new state agency established by Governor Brown and the State Legislature to advise and assist school districts on their academic performance. Before his tenure at Claremont, he served as superintendent of schools in the San Diego Unified School District. Prior to that, he worked as a professor at the University of Southern California, and a federal court monitor for the special education consent decree in the Los Angeles school system. From 1992 to 2002, he was superintendent of the Long Beach Unified School District. His tenure at Long Beach culminated with him winning the McGraw Prize in 2002, and the district winning the Broad Prize in 2003.

Cohn has worked as a faculty advisor for both the Broad Superintendents Academy and the Harvard Urban Superintendents Program. He also serves on the boards of the Spencer Foundation, Teaching Works at the University of Michigan and St. Mary’s Academy. He recently completed service on the California State Board of Education and ACT, Inc.  Earlier this year, he completed the long-term evaluation of the DC Public Schools for the National Research Council.

Among his many publications, Cohn co-edited the 2004 Teachers College Press publication, Partnering to Lead Educational Renewal: High Quality Teachers, High Quality Schools.

+ - School of Communication Award

rebeccaRebecca Hall ’96
CEO, Idea Hall
School of Communication Honoree

Rebecca Hall is an Orange County native, celebrated entrepreneur in the PR, branding and marketing industry, and dedicated alumni of Chapman University. In 2003, Rebecca founded Idea Hall, a hybrid marketing, branding, and public relations firm based in Orange County. Today, Idea Hall is one of the fastest growing and most sought-after integrated creative firms in Orange County, ranked No. 3 by the Orange County Business Journal’s “Best PR Firms” list as well as a “Best Places to Work”. Idea Hall’s prestigious client list includes Irvine Company, Swinerton, Visit Anaheim, Cystinosis Research Foundation, Cox, Castle & Nicholson, and many more.

Rebecca is always committed to showing her Panther Pride. She is currently a member of Chapman University’s Board of Governors and served as President of the Chapman University Alumni Board, an ex-officio member of the University’s Board of Trustees, and member of Chapman 50. Rebecca positions herself as a mentor and resource for Chapman Alumni and has employed many of them throughout the years. Currently she employs four Chapman alumni and two current students under Idea Hall’s internship program.

As a leader in Orange County, one of Rebecca’s top priorities is giving back to her community. She serves on several boards including Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA) Orange County and UCI’s Center for Real Estate. Rebecca has volunteered her time at CHOC Children’s Hospital as a cast member in CHOC Follies and is an active member of OC/PRSA, where she has received the organization’s “Distinguished Service Award” and her Accreditation in Public Relations (APR) and serves as a member of the organization’s Counselor’s Academy.

+ - Crean College of Health and Behavioral Sciences Award


Michael Pahl ’99

Partner Orthopaedic Surgeon, Memorial Orthopaedic Surgical Group
Crean College of Health and Behavioral Sciences Honoree

Michael Pahl, MD, is a practicing Orthopaedic Surgeon specializing in Sports Medicine, focusing on complex shoulder injuries. He is a partner at Memorial Orthopaedic Surgical Group in Long Beach and is the Chairman of the Department of Orthopaedic Surgery at Long Beach Memorial Medical Center and the Chairman of the Board at The Memorial Care Surgical Center in Long Beach. 

He works with Long Beach State Athletics and is a faculty member in the Long Beach Memorial Primary Care Sports Medicine Fellowship.  Dr Pahl has also worked with the World Surf League at the US Open and Hurley Pro and currently provides medical care for the Vans US Open Skate and BMX event.

He is extensively published in the orthopaedic literature and has presented at multiple national and international conferences.

He is a member of the Chapman 50 and has served as a mentor to numerous Chapman University students.

Dr Pahl received his BS in Exercise Physiology in 1999. He received his medical degree from Jefferson Medical College before completing a residency in Orthopaedic Surgery at Thomas Jefferson University Hospital and Sport Medicine fellowship at the Southern California Center for Sports Medicine.

+ - Dodge College of Film and Media Arts Award


Kathleen Remington ’05

Partner at ICM Partners
Dodge College of Film and Media Arts Honoree

Kathleen Remington is a Partner in the Motion Picture Literary Department at ICM Partners.  A Florida native, her dad had always encouraged to “go to a school in a part of the country you might want to live or work.” Remington selected Chapman so she could have a small town feel and still follow her dream of being “in the business.” She began interning at ICM Partners following her Freshman year at Chapman where she studied Public Relations and Advertising in the Dodge College.  Against her advisor’s better judgment, she became committed to graduating early (in 3 years) in part to begin her career at ICM, as she had been so passionate about her internship. 

In the decade or so since, she has grown into representing some of the biggest writers and producers working today and also remains committed to discovering and crossing over young new voices and breaking filmmakers.  Fade In Magazine highlighted Remington as one of the Top 100 People in Hollywood and last year and Hollywood Reporter named her one of Hollywood’s 35 Under 35. 

Remington is passionate her career and continues to look for ways to mentor at all levels, at work and philanthropically. Remington is an advocate for Outward Bound (she has herself done 3 courses) and spends much of her free time as a mentor for Big Brothers Big Sisters of Greater Los Angeles’ (BBBSLA).  She recently became an alum of the Hollywood Reporter partnership with Women in Entertainment (WIE) and is also spearheading the company’s BBBSLA’s Workplace Mentorship Program.

+ - Fowler School of Law Award

stevenSteven Ruden (JD ’05)
Partner at Knobbe Martens Olson & Bear LLP
Fowler School of Law Honoree

Steven P. Ruden is a patent attorney and partner in the Orange County office of Knobbe, Martens, Olson & Bear, the largest intellectual property law firm west of the Mississippi. Steve focuses on creating patent and trademark portfolios to protect inventions and brand goodwill for a wide range of clients, from small startups with a handful of founders, through unicorns with large capital investments, to established corporations.  Nowadays, Steve works primarily in technology areas including augmented and virtual reality, blockchain and cryptocurrency, lasers and optics, high altitude balloon systems, retail store electronic and video security, and computer software. 

Intellectual property law is Steve’s second career.  Before he became a lawyer, Steve was a professor of physics and astronomy at the University of California, Irvine, and worked with researchers at NASA on how stars and planets are born.

When Steve decided to change careers, Chapman was instrumental in helping him make the switch.  Chapman put him in touch with local patent lawyers (including at the firm where Steve is now a partner).  The professors at the Fowler School of Law gave Steve a tremendous legal background to launch his second career.  Steve is very honored to be selected to represent the Fowler School of Law as its 2018 distinguished alumnus.

+ - College of Performing Arts Award

caraCara Lawler ’11
President and Founder of Someone a World Away (SAWA)
College of Performing Arts Honoree

Cara Lawler is the Founder of Someone A World Away, a nonprofit organization that supports orphans and vulnerable children in Kenya.  Cara first traveled to Kenya in 2013 on a volunteer trip to work with an orphanage for three months.  She could not forget the children and their amazing smiles, the abysmal condition of the orphanage, or the ideas she had to improve their future.  So she founded SAWA immediately upon her return to the USA.  She committed herself to address the root of their problems, by moving them away from their dilapidated rental property and into a new facility to care for children for years to come.

She was awarded the Albert Schweitzer Rising Star Award from Chapman University in 2015 and was awarded $5,000 to help purchase a plot of land to build a new orphanage which would be home to 50 orphans in Nairobi, Kenya.  This year, construction was completed and the children were moved into their new home in August.  Through SAWA, Cara has raised over $300,000 to improve the children’s nutrition, health, education, and home environment.  She hopes to continue making a difference in the lives of vulnerable children through sustainable support for years to come.

Cara graduated from Chapman University in 2011 with two Bachelor of Arts degrees in Music Education and Choral Conducting. She is currently pursuing a Master of Science degree in Organizational Development at the United States International University in Nairobi.

+ - School of Pharmacy Award


Amir Shirazi (Pharm.D. ’18)
Assistant Professor of Pharmaceutical Sciences at American University of Health Sciences
School of Pharmacy Honoree

Dr. Amir Shirazi serves as an Assistant Professor of pharmaceutical Sciences at American University of Health Sciences. He holds both Pharm.D. and Ph.D. degrees from accredited schools in the United States. Amir received his Doctoral Degree in Pharmacy from Chapman University School of Pharmacy in May 2018. During his Pharm.D. studies, he had opportunities to work at incredible pharmacy setting places such as CVS retail stores, Kaiser Permanente Hospital Acute Care, and Saint Jude Heritage Medical Group.

Also, he has previously served as a Research Associate at Chapman University and University of California, Irvine Medical Center, and Associate Member of Chao Family Comprehensive Cancer Center at UC at Irvine Medical Center.

In addition to his Pharm.D. degree, he received a Doctoral Degree in Pharmaceutical Sciences in 2013 from the University of Rhode Island. During his Ph.D. studies, he developed numerous drug delivery systems using peptide building blocks for various delivery application. As a result of his research investigations, he was able to publish more than 50 research papers in prestigious journals in the field of pharmaceutical sciences such as Angewandte Chemie International Edition and Molecular Pharmaceutics which have been cited more than 900 times by his peers. 

+ - Schmid College of Science and Technology Award


Becky Wanta ’91
Chief Operating Officer/Chief Information Officer (COO/CIO) for One Degree World and CEO and President of RSW1C
Schmid College of Science and Technology

Becky Wanta is a highly accomplished global senior executive with more than 30 years of success of applying extensive IT experience to guide companies in any industry to achieve their goals. She has proven her ability to improve market share and profitability while establishing long-term business relations, as well as to develop cross-functional and high-performing teams. Becky’s areas of expertise include IT strategy, enterprise software, business intelligence and analysis, integration, strategy, cloud computing, go-to-market strategies, startups, project management, enterprise architecture, ecommerce, due diligence, strategic planning, and security.

Currently, Becky is Chief Operating Officer/Chief Information Officer (COO/CIO) for One Degree World, a technology company focused on Travel and Entertainment as well as Healthcare.  Becky also serves as President and CEO of RSW1C, a company she founded in 2007. In this role, she has partnered and consulted with some of the world’s leading organizations including Target, Ralph Lauren, Wyndham, Caterpillar, Georgia-Pacific, Coca-Cola, Honeywell, Devon, Western Digital, Koch Industries, DuPont, 3M, Cargill, GE, P&G, and Miller Brewing Company. Prior to her current COO/CIO role she has served as an interim executive to various startup companies and is a highly sought after executive and consultant with proven ability to bridge the gap between technical and non-technical audiences. 

Earlier in her career, Becky was able to prove her ability to transform entire organizations by focusing on improving IT within the companies. She quickly built a respectable reputation as a highly desirable executive, which led to her executive appointments with The Money Store (First Union), Wells Fargo, FeldGroup/EDS, PepsiCo, Best Buy, the State Compensation Insurance Fund (California), MGM Resorts International, and Pacific Compensation Insurance Company. 

In addition to her executive career, Becky serves as an Advisor to the Board for MIT “Wealth of Nations,” Teradata Retail/Hospitality, Calgary Scientific and 360ofme. Further proving her thought leadership, she has been awarded the Chairman’s Award from PepsiCo and her #4 and #12 ranking on The ExecRanks’ Top 50 Female CIOs of 2012 and Top 200 CIOs of 2012 respectively. She has spoken at the Teradata Universe Conferences in both Australia and Tokyo, CDM Media events, and numerous other engagements all over the world. She has also been profiled by various publications, including Profile magazine and Bloomberg News. She is the holder of two US patents.

Becky obtained her BS in MIS (Summa Cum Laude) from Chapman University; she attained her MBA in Business Administration with an MIS Concentration (Magna Cum Laude) from Golden Gate University, and she received her MS in Banking from the University of Washington, Pacific Coast Banking School.

+ - Wilkinson College of Arts, Humanities, and Social Sciences Award


Kristyn von Rotz ’01
Founder and Board Chair of Forever Footprints
Wilkinson College of Arts, Humanities, and Social Sciences Honoree

Kristyn von Rotz is the founder and board chair of Forever Footprints, a nonprofit organization that provides support, education and remembrance to those who have suffered the loss of a baby in pregnancy or infancy. As founder and executive director, Kristyn grew the organization from a small, local remembrance walk to a multifaceted nonprofit organization that has served tens of thousands of individuals impacted by miscarriage, stillbirth, pregnancy loss, and infant death. Forever Footprints ensures that no parent is ever alone and no baby is forgotten. In a time of unimaginable grief and loss, the organization provides support and healing. Forever Footprints is headquartered in downtown Orange and serves families in Orange County, Los Angeles County, and the Inland Empire.

Forever Footprints was started in memory of Kristyn’s firstborn son Joseph, who was born on July 8, 2004. In the same moment she said hello to her newborn son, she said goodbye, as he died in her arms. Kristyn is also the mother to Leah, Evan, and Sara, and a baby lost to early miscarriage.

Kristyn and her husband Mark have lived in Orange for fifteen years. Kristyn works as a freelance editor and writer and is a graduate of Chapman University (Bachelor of Arts in English, emphasis in Journalism and a minor in Philosophy). She also studied at Regent’s College in London, England. She is the proud recipient of the Oliver Halsell Care Award and the Forever Footprints Compassion Award.

+ - 2018 Distinguished Alumni Awards Nominees

Sami Abdelatif '04
Mayra Aguilera '11
Henry Allen '11
Steven Babiak '15
Antoinette N. Balta '03, (JD '11)
Nader Baroukh '94
Benjamin Bliss '08
Maia Boitano '14
Stephen Boss '05
Randolph Boyd '06
Ms. Brenda Brkusic Milinkovic '04
Michael Brown '06
Brian Buehler '97
Darren Bunkley '98
William Burbank (JD '08)
Ariana M. Burris (JD '09)
Jason R. Burris '02, (JD '08)
Raymond Call '09
Michael Cancelleri '99
Jeanne Carriere '10
Genevieve Carson '07
Akin Ceylan '90
Rachel Chiavatti '13
Roger Chingirian '02
Brent Chow '12
Sir Adam Coughran '04 (M.A. '10)
Richard Courtney '09
Kevin Crosby '02
John-David Currey '98
Jessie Dart '16
Ladan Davia '14
Sarah Dawson '14
Frederick Devereux (EMBA '97)
Eric Dominguez '03, (JD '11)
Melanie Duncan '08
Laura Farinella '86
Douglas Farnham (MBA '88)
James Filipan '93, (M.S. '96)
Aaron Flewellen '04
Kelsey Flewellen '04
Robin Follman-Otta (MBA '15)
Jeffrey Garvin '98
Michael Gates (JD '08) 
Pamela Gibbons '01
Karam Gill '16
Mike Gravagno '18
Michael Groff (MBA '85)
Tallene Hacatoryan '14
Charles Hall '98
Matthew Hanson '86
Thomas Bennett '03
Bill Hilf (M.A. '96)
Anne Hornung '14
David Judy '87
Casey Kasprzyk '01
Dustin Kemmerer '97
Taylor Krause '16
Stephen Lavin '88
Fadel Lawandy '99
Tiffany Lewis '04
Christy L. Lewis (JD '11)
Amy Marks '13
Kevin Loucks (EMBA '17)
Megan Macdonald '02
Daniel Malikyar '17
Osvaldo Martinez '00
Reed Matthews '17
Keith McCarty, Jr. '07 
Daniel Merkle '76
Samantha Meyers '06
Samuel Mirejovsky '11, (JD '14)
Vincent Monaco '10
Greg Montoya '08
Thomas Moran '92
Cody Morgan '13
Sharaf Mowjood '05
Lupe Mujica '07
Stephen Nelson '11
Sarah Nowels (MBA, JD '10)
Cynthia Olaya (M.A. '04)
Shauna Parisi '11
William Parker '52 
Amy Parrish '14
Leone Patterson '86
James Patterson, Jr. '73
Gloria Pellegrino '01
Kela Powers '11
Chad Rabago '15
Birkner Rawlings '00
Nicole Renard '17
Justin Riley '11
Thomas Robichaux (JD '99)
Ryan Robinson '12
Tyler McCusker '11
Mark Samuels '06
William Scholle (MBA '05)
June Scobee Rodgers (M.A. '76)
Teren Shaffer '08
Barry Shelton '90
Sophia Silva '11
Jade Simmons (MBA '08)
Ronald Smith '01, (M.A. '09)
Mr. Efrain Solis '11
Alyssa Soto (MBA '03)
Tyler Speer '12
Johnese Spisso '87
Kevin Staniec '01
William Stellman '80
Trevor Stevens '15
Jodie Sweetin '05
Yasuhisa Tanida '01
Lisa Thompson '99
Stephen Thorne, IV '94
Steven Turner '95
Peter Twill '98 
Kelly Vlahakis-Hanks (EMBA '16)
Allyson Wadman '17
Wendell Wardlaw '95
Leanne Wheeler '99
Mark Whitley '98 
Charles Wilkins '61
Nicholas Wilks '10, (MBA '13)
Douglas Willits '72

Bert C. Williams Lifetime Service Award: Highest Award of Distinction (2017)

+ - The Honorable George L. Argyros ’59

George Argyros

Arnel & Affiliates


The Honorable George L. Argyros served as the United States Ambassador to the Kingdom of Spain and Principality of Andorra from November 2001 to November 2004.

During this extraordinary period in Spain’s history, Ambassador Argyros’ outstanding diplomatic accomplishments included:

  • Forging a close alliance with King Juan Carlos and former President Jose Maria Aznar that resulted in Spain’s support and participation in Operation Iraqi Freedom and Enduring Freedom.
  • Guiding the U.S. response to the tragic terrorist bombings in 2003.
  • Working with the Spanish government to implement a new biometric passport program and container security initiative.
  • Implementing new initiatives to assist and promote U.S. trade and investment in Spain. During this period, Ambassador Argyros personally led two major Spanish trade delegations to the United States.
  • Negotiating the Defense Cooperation Agreement that strengthens the military alliance between Spain and the United States.

Ambassador Argyros is currently Chairman of Arnel & Affiliates, a prominent West Coast diversified Investment Company, with corporate offices located in Costa Mesa, California. He is also a General Partner in Westar Capital, a private investment company. From 1981-1987, he was co-owner of AirCal, which was successfully sold to American Airlines in 1987; and from 1981-1989, he was owner of the Seattle Mariners Baseball Club of the American League for nine full seasons.

Prior to his ambassadorship, he was a member of the Board of Directors for Rockwell International Corporation (NYSE) and The Newhall Land and Farming Company (NYSE). He was most recently a member of the Board of Directors for First American Corporation (NYSE) and DST Systems, Inc. (NYSE).

Ambassador Argyros formerly served as a member of the Advisory Committee for Trade Policy and Negotiations for the U.S. Trade Representative until 1990, when President G. W. Bush appointed him to the board of the Federal Home Loan Mortgage Corporation (Freddie Mac). He completed his term on the Freddie Mac Board in March 1993.

From 1976 to 2001, Ambassador Argyros set a record as the longest serving Chairman of the Board of Trustees of Chapman University, one of the West’s finest private universities. He currently remains on the Chapman Board while also serving as a Life Trustee for the California Institute of Technology, where he formerly served as Chairman of the Investment Committee.

Mr. Argyros is a Trustee Emeritus of the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington D.C. that provides world leaders with strategic insights on and policy solutions to global issues; Trustee Emeritus of Library of Congress Open World Leadership Board; former Member of U.S. Chamber of Commerce; Member of the Hoover Institution’s Board of Overseers, former Chairman of the Richard Nixon Library & Birthplace Foundation; Founding Chairman for the Nixon Center in Washington D.C.; Board of Regents for the Orange County Council Boy Scouts of America, as well as former Chairman and Board Member of the Council; Chairman Emeritus of the Arnold and Mabel Beckman Foundation, a major philanthropic foundation for scientific research.

Ambassador Argyros was a 1993 recipient of the Horatio Alger Award of Distinguished Americans, perhaps the single most coveted award given in America to non-military, non-show business individuals. He served as President and CEO of the Washington D.C. based Horatio Alger Association from 1995 to 1998, Chairman from 1998 to 2000, and currently serves as Treasurer and Chairman Emeritus. In 2004, he was selected by the Horatio Alger Association to receive the Norman Vincent Peale Award in recognition for his ongoing involvement in the Association and his humanitarian contributions to society.

In 1997, Ambassador Argyros received an honorary Doctor of Law Degree from Pepperdine University; in 2001, he was the recipient of the Ellis Island Medal of Honor; in 2005, he received an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters Degree from Chapman University; and in 2010, Ambassador Argyros received an honorary Doctorate of Sciences Degree from City of Hope.

Mr. Argyros was selected in 2005 as an Archon of the Mother Church of Constantinople, an esteemed honor in the Greek Orthodox Church, Order of Saint Andrew the Apostle.

Ambassador Argyros was the 2007 recipient of the Semper Fidelis Award from the Marine Scholarship Foundation. In June 2005, through the Horatio Alger Association, he and Mrs. Argyros initiated the first national college scholarship program exclusively for veterans who had served honorably in Operation Iraqi Freedom or Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan. Military scholarships totaling 2,349 and valued at $11.74 million have been awarded to these veterans.

Born in Detroit, Michigan and raised in Pasadena, California, Ambassador Argyros graduated from Chapman University in 1959 with a major in business and economics. He and his wife, Julia, have been married for 56 years and have three grown children and eight grandchildren.

School and College Distinguished Alumni Award Recipients (2017)

+ - Ken Bunt '93

headshot of ken bunt

Wilkinson College of Arts, Humanities, and Social Sciences

Disney Music Group

As president of Disney Music Group (DMG), Ken Bunt oversees all of The Walt Disney Company's recorded music, music publishing, and live concert operations, including Hollywood Records, Walt Disney Records, Buena Vista Records, Disney Concerts, and Disney Music Publishing. The group's output ranges from motion picture and television soundtracks to recording artists, including the Oscar- and Grammy-winning Frozen soundtrack, Grammy-nominated recordings for Star Wars, Demi Lovato, Queen, and many more.

Ken is the former executive vice president of DMG and has served as senior vice president of marketing for Hollywood Records. He joined Disney Music Group in 1998 as head of digital marketing, where he utilized new technology to connect artists with their fans. He built DMG’s digital sales department and increased the group’s presence in the digital marketing industry by establishing early partnerships with YouTube, Facebook, iTunes and VEVO. Prior to joining Disney, Ken worked at Def American Records with music icons, including Johnny Cash.

Ken was named one of Details magazine’s 2009 Mavericks for recognizing “a wave of reinvention washing over the media, politics and entertainment” and turning it around by “breaking the rules and doing the impossible.” A Southern California native, Ken earned a B.A. in liberal studies from Chapman University and was the general manager of Chapman Radio.

+ - Kelly Vlahakis-Hanks (EMBA ’16)

headshot of kelly vlahakis-hanks

George L. Argyros School of Business and Economics

CEO and President
Earth Friendly Products

As president and CEO of Earth Friendly Products, Kelly Vlahakis-Hanks oversees four manufacturing facilities across the U.S. and a global sales team. Vlahakis-Hanks has been internationally recognized for her highly effective leadership and influential voice in the green movement and in corporate social responsibility.

Vlahakis-Hanks has implemented sustainable operating practices that have made Earth Friendly Products (EFP) a model for green American business. Under her leadership, EFP achieved the unprecedented “trifecta” of sustainable manufacturing: carbon neutrality, water neutrality, and Zero Waste Platinum certification at all four of its manufacturing facilities across the U.S. As a primary manufacturer, EFP has received many awards for its innovations in safer green chemistry, including the U.S. EPA’s coveted Safer Choice Partner of the Year. EFP makes its plant-based products using 100% renewable energy and has reduced its waste by over 95% through recycling and reuse.

Under Vlahakis-Hanks’ leadership, EFP instituted one of the strongest employee benefits programs in the U.S., offering all employees a variety of paid healthcare, personal leave and disability benefits. The company also offers significant financial incentives to employees who make sustainable living choices such as purchasing an environmentally friendly vehicle or purchasing solar panels for their home. Citing the benefits of creating a workplace with low turnover and increased productivity, Vlahakis-Hanks implemented a “living wage” policy that raised the minimum pay for all employees to $17 per hour, one of the highest minimum wages in the country. These decisions not only reflect the values that are part of the company’s DNA but also drive innovation and increased profitability at the company.

A graduate of UCLA and Chapman University’s Argyros School of Business and Economics, Vlahakis-Hanks held earlier positions as a public relations executive and a nonprofit organization director before joining EFP in 2003. She was promoted to executive vice president in 2009 and was responsible for opening five new manufacturing facilities and overseeing global sales in over 60 countries.

Vlahakis-Hanks has been featured on CNN, ABC News, FOX News, NBC News, Bloomberg and Marketwatch and in the Los Angeles Times and the Orange County Register. She has received many awards for her sustainable leadership, including Global Green’s 2016 Corporate Environmental Leadership Award and Green Building & Design magazine’s 2016 Women in Sustainability Leadership Award. Also in 2016, she was named one of Orange Coast Magazine’s Remarkable Women and won the Orange County Business Journal’s Women in Business Award. Vlahakis-Hanks was a leading voice in the formation of the Sustainability Consortium and has served as a key strategic advisor to Walmart’s sustainability and conservation efforts. She is an active member of several boards, including the Environmental Media Association and the American Sustainable Business Council, which awarded her its 2016 Sustainable Policymakers Award (SUSTY) for championing policies that help build a more sustainable economy.

By lending her voice to industry councils and government programs, Vlahakis-Hanks works to promote higher standards for product manufacturing that protect consumer health while also protecting the environment. In her executive position, Vlahakis-Hanks has dedicated herself to the pursuit of green-cleaning product innovation, environmental protection and social advocacy.

+ - Elim Kay ’09

headshot of elim kaySchool of Communication

Founding Partner
REDDS Venture Investment Partners

Elim Kay, B.A. communication studies ’09, is the CEO of the Kay Family Foundation, managing director and CEO of a privately-held group of operating and holding companies, and founding partner for REDDS Venture Investment Partners.

Elim serves on the Board of Governors of Chapman University and Board of Counselors of Chapman University’s Argyros School of Business and Economics. As the CEO of the Kay Family Foundation, Elim Kay has been instrumental in raising the profile of Chapman University, supporting a broad range priorities at Chapman including Musco Center for the Art, the Leatherby Center for Entrepreneurship and Business Ethics, the Institute for Quantum Studies, and more.

Kay has been involved with technology ventures since 2002. Through a private partnership, he acquired the then-small online community, ClubLexus.com in 2002 and served as managing director until its acquisition by Internet Brands, Inc. in 2007. He has also been actively involved with various companies through operational and advisory capacities.

+ - Justin Simien ’05

headshot of justin simienDodge College of Film and Media Arts

Dear White People film and Netflix original series

Justin Simien is a Los Angeles-based writer, director, and producer of television and film. In 2014 he wrote and directed his first feature film, Dear White People. The critically acclaimed independent film premiered at the Sundance Film Festival, where Simien won the Special Jury Award for Breakthrough Talent and where the film was picked up by Lionsgate/Roadside Attractions.

After the theatrical release of Dear White People in fall 2014, Simien was awarded Best First Screenplay and was nominated for Best First Feature at the Independent Spirit Awards. The film also earned him a nomination for the Bingham Ray Breakthrough Director Award and Audience Award at the 2014 Gotham Awards. Dear White People actress Tessa Thompson won Breakthrough Actor at the Gotham Awards for her leading performance as the film’s fearless and controversial Sam White. Simien was included in Variety’s “10 Directors to Watch” list in 2014.

Simien adapted Dear White People into a Netflix series. The show remains at a coveted and rare 100% on Rotten Tomatoes for its first season.

+ - Elizabeth Tierney (M.A. ’80)

headshot of womanCollege of Educational Studies


Elizabeth Tierney earned her M.A. in counseling from Chapman University. While attending Chapman, she provided career counseling for transitioning veterans at bases throughout the western United States. Her career in education included teaching journalism, English and government at the high school level, and serving as a counselor and instructor at Saddleback College, where she taught psychology and women’s studies.

Tierney is recognized as both a philanthropist and accomplished community leader. She is the longest-serving Board member of the Segerstrom Center for the Arts distinguished support group, Angels of the Arts. She served on the UCI Foundation Board for more than 14 years and has been awarded the distinction of being an Honorary Lifetime Alumnus. Her service as past president of the Orange County Historical and Cultural Foundation brought together diverse cultures within the community. In Tierney’s early work with foster children, she served as a board member of the Orangewood Children’s Foundation. In 2016, she and her husband, Tom, were honored with the National Philanthropy Day Legacy Award.

Tierney makes time to ride her horses (of which she has seven) almost every day, along with spending time with her husband’s French donkey and two dogs. She is passionate about ballroom dancing and did an exhibition rhumba in celebration of her 75th birthday. She has four children, 11 grandchildren, and is eagerly awaiting the arrival of two more grandchildren on the way.

+ - Stephen Thorne (MHA ’94)

headshot of stephen thorneCrean College of Health and Behavioral Sciences

Pacific Dental Services, Inc.

Steve Thorne is founder, president and CEO of Pacific Dental Services (PDS), a leading dental support organization that provides business services to over 580 dental practices throughout the United States.

Thorne graduated from UCLA in 1989 with a degree in economics and business. He earned his master’s degree in health administration from Chapman University in 1994. In 2016, he was awarded the degree of Doctor of Humane Letters from A.T. Still University, the world’s first osteopathic medical school.

After college, Thorne worked for his father, a dentist, managing a struggling dental practice. He helped the office reach success and continued to work with his father for several years before creating PDS.

PDS strives to be the provider of choice for practicing dentists to maximize individual and professional God-given potential. PDS values service, not just for its customers, but also for the less fortunate through the PDS Foundation, a charitable organization that provides service programs for oral healthcare locally, nationally, and internationally.

Outside of PDS, Thorne is an active leader in the dental industry. He helped form the Association of Dental Support Organizations and served as the founding president for three years. He is a member of the Dean’s Advisory Board for Harvard School of Dental Medicine, where he’ll be helping them to integrate oral health and medicine. He is also on a board of trusted dental scholars and professionals with the Santa Fe Group called the Strategic Advisory Council, which is committed expanding oral health care access to aging Americans.

Steve Thorne resides in Nevada with his wife of 26 years, Pam. The couple has seven children.

+ - Dr. Zeinab Dabbah (JD ’12)

headshot of womanDale E. Fowler School of Law

Dr. Zeinab H. Dabbah is the managing partner at the Law Offices of Zeinab Dabbah in Pasadena, Calif. She is also an internist. Prior to attending Chapman University Dale E. Fowler School of Law, where she earned her juris doctorate cum laude in 2012, she held various positions in health care management. She spent four years at Anthem Blue Cross, where she became chief medical officer and regional vice president for the plan’s six million commercial members.

Dr. Dabbah began her medical career at Healthcare Partners Medical Group as a primary care physician and internist. She was also a senior partner and regional medical director for utilization management. In addition, she served as an adjunct clinical instructor at Keck School of Medicine of USC.

Dr. Dabbah and her husband, Dr. Daniel Temianka, are active philanthropists who have given to a wide variety of organizations including Classical KUSC, the National Institute of Transplantation and the Rose Bowl Aquatic Center. At Chapman University, they established the Henri Temianka Professorship in Music and the Henri Temianka Scholarship in String Studies. They also endowed the Frank Doti Lecture Hall at Fowler School of Law, and are Lead Benefactors and Founders of Musco Center for the Arts. Recently they donated the Henri Temianka Archives and Multimedia Room at the Leatherby Libraries.

Dr. Dabbah holds an M.D. from Cairo University Medical School and completed her residency at LAC+USC Medical Center. She is a Certified Health Insurance Executive (CHIE) from America’s Health Insurance Plans (AHIP). Dr. Dabbah also has an emphasis in Advocacy and Dispute Resolution from Fowler School of Law.

Dr. Dabbah currently serves as vice chair of the Chapman University Board of Trustees. She is a member of the Chapman University Academic Committee and Crean College leadership council.

She and her husband have four children and live in Pasadena, Calif.

+ - Keith Hancock ’02 (M.A. ’04)

headshot of keith hancockCollege of Performing Arts

Choral Music Director, Tesoro High School
GRAMMY® Educator of the Year

Keith Hancock, B.A. music education and choral conducting ’02 (M.A. ’04), is a two-time Grammy Awards nominee and winner of the 2017 Grammy Music Educator of the Year Award. He is the 2012 recipient of the Secondary Vocal Music Teacher of the Year Award from the Orange County Department of Education. Hancock has also served as an adjunct faculty member of Chapman University’s Hall-Musco Conservatory of Music, and is a member of the American Choral Directors Association and Southern California Vocal Association.

The 2017-2018 academic year is Hancock’s 16th year teaching at Tesoro High School (THS) in Rancho Santa Margarita, Calif. He has grown the school’s choral program from 35 students in two choirs to over 200 students in five choral groups. Under his direction, THS was one of five schools nationwide to be named a 2015 Grammy Signature School of Excellence. The THS Madrigals were invited twice to perform at American Choral Directors Association Western Division Conventions, one of the highest honors for a high school choir in the United States.

Keith Hancock also serves as music director at Compass Bible Church in Aliso Viejo, Calif. and is a professional portrait and wedding photographer (www.belcantophotography.com). Additionally, he is an accomplished freelance pianist, vocalist, accompanist, arranger, and recording engineer. As a student at Chapman, he was a Presidential Scholar and received the Choral Conducting Award and the Music Education Award. He graduated Summa Cum Laude.

Hancock and his fellow music teacher wife, Carly (Frenzel) Hancock ’03, have two sons, Joel and Chase.

+ - Soliel K. Doman (M.S. ’16)

soliel doman in graduation cap and gownSchool of Pharmacy

FDA Pathways Student Biologist

Pharmaceutical sciences alumna Soliel K. Doman ’16 is one of the first School of Pharmacy program graduates from Chapman University. Prior to coming to Chapman, she studied medical laboratory and biotechnology from the University of Rhode Island.

While at Chapman, she was an instrumental part research into the medical properties of the spice turmeric, which is widely used to treat inflammation, coughs, muscle aches and indigestion. Doman researched the proteins and peptides of turmeric to see if the ingredient that is key in many curries can also unlock treatments for bacterial and fungal infections, and potentially even inhibit cancer.

Doman’s adventurous, studious research into the alternate world of spice components is just one step in her journey into deeper, more intriguing work:  she is currently a Pathways Intern with U.S Food & Drug Administration in Drug Chemistry.

+ - Dr. Richard Pitts ’70

headshot of richard pittsSchmid College of Science and Technology

Chief Medical Officer
Arrowhead Regional Medical Center

Richard Pitts, DO, Ph.D., is the chief medical officer at Arrowhead Regional Medical Center in San Bernardino County, a comprehensive university-affiliated hospital and trauma center with more than 400 physicians in training. He is board certified in emergency medicine and occupational medicine and was an associate professor of medicine at UC Irvine Medical Center for over 20 years.

An active leader in his field, he is the past president of the Orange County Medical Association and the Orange County Heart Association.

Pitts holds a bachelor of arts in chemistry from Chapman University, a doctorate of osteopathic medicine from Des Moines University, and a Ph.D. in applied management from Walden University.

Additional Distinguished Alumni Award Recipients (2017)

+ - Erin J. Lastinger ’88

headshot of erin lastingerDistinguished Alumni Athlete

A. Gary Anderson Family Foundation

As chairman and CEO of the A. Gary Anderson Family Foundation, Erin J. Lastinger, B.A. communications ’88, is a dedicated and enthusiastic leader who has directly impacted education, the arts, and human services throughout Southern California. Assuming her responsibilities with the Foundation at an early age, Erin has well honored the memory of her late father, A. Gary Anderson. In addition to significant partnerships with Chapman University, Big Brothers and Big Sisters of Orange County, Hoag Hospital, Children’s Fund, the YMCA, and numerous other organizations, Erin and the Foundation have made an extraordinary difference in the lives of countless individuals.

Erin is the recipient of the 1997 Ernst and Young LLP Spirit of Leadership Award, 2006 Alumna of the Year Award at Chapman University, and the 2014 National AFP Foundation of the Year Award. She was a nominee for the 2005 and 2006 Outstanding Philanthropist for the AFP Spirit of Philanthropy Awards, the 2005 Yorba Linda Citizen of the Year, and the 2013 AFP Orange County Outstanding Foundation Award.

Additionally, Erin is the honorary chair of Chapman University’s Semester at Sea, on Semester at Sea’s Board of Directors, a board member of Children’s Fund of San Bernardino County and Canyon Acres, chairman of A. Gary Anderson Memorial Golf Classic to Benefit Children’s Fund, and board member of Loma Linda University Children’s Hospital Foundation. Chapman University’s newest tennis courts, the Erin J. Lastinger Athletic Complex, are named in her honor and will open in fall 2017.

+ - Behzad Binesh (MBA ’79)

headshot of behzad bineshDistinguished Alumni Staff Member

Vice President, Finance/University Controller
Chapman University

Born in Yazd, Iran, Behzad Binesh came to Chapman University in 1977 at the age of 23 to pursue an MBA after earning his bachelor’s degree in accounting in Tehran, Iran’s capital city.

During his time as a graduate student, Binesh was a teaching assistant to Dr. Jim Doti and the late Dr. Essie Adibi, beginning a decades-long friendship with the acclaimed university leaders, and served as a tutor in math, accounting, urban economics and statistics. He also formed a close relationship with G.T. “Buck” Smith, who was president of Chapman College from 1977-1988, and spent many holidays with President Smith and his family.

Although Binesh originally planned to stay in the United States for just two years to earn his Chapman degree, the onset of the Iranian Revolution necessitated a change of plans. After graduating, he began working as a junior accountant in Chapman’s financial services office. Climbing the ranks for nearly four decades, Binesh is now the vice president of finance and university controller. He resides in Anaheim with his wife, Shohreh.

+ - Jennifer Backhaus ’94

headshot of jennifer backhausDistinguished Alumni Faculty Member

Instructor/Founder and Artistic Director

Jennifer Backhaus is founder and artistic director of Backhausdance. She was featured in OC Metro’s 40 Under 40 and honored by Chapman University as Alumni of the Year for her artistic leadership of Backhausdance. As a choreographer, Jennifer’s works have been commissioned and produced by Brigham Young University, Chapman University, Los Angeles Ballet, McCallum Theatre, Segerstrom Center for the Arts, TDC of the Bay Area and Utah Regional Ballet, among others.

Many of Jennifer’s works have been honored with awards, and her piece Disintegration was presented at the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C. For Backhausdance, she has created numerous works, three of which have received multiple Lester Horton Awards for Outstanding Achievement in Choreography. At the McCallum Theatre’s Dance Under the Stars Choreography Festival, Jennifer has been the recipient of three consecutive choreography awards.

Currently a full-time dance faculty member at Chapman University, Jennifer is also a teaching artist for the Segerstrom Center for the Arts Education Programs, where she shares her love of dance and choreography with hundreds of students in public and private schools across Southern California. A life-long learner, Jenny holds a BFA in communications and dance from Chapman University, and received her MFA in choreography from Hollins University and the ADF.

+ - Maci Peterson ’09

headshot of maci petersonDistinguished Young Alumna

Co-Founder and CEO
On Second Thought

Maci Peterson, B.A. public relations and advertising ’09, is the cofounder and CEO of On Second Thought, a messaging application that allows users rescind text messages before they are delivered to the intended recipient’s mobile phone. A millennial entrepreneur and marketing expert, Maci has been named “Tech’s Newest Innovator” by Essence magazine. Maci has been recognized on Inc. Magazine’s 2016 “30 Under 30 List” and Washington Business Journal’s 2015 “40 Under 40 List.” She has been identified as a rising leader in technology by REVOLT TV and one BET’s “29 People You Should Know” by BET. Maci founded On Second Thought after winning first place in the #StartupOasis pitch competition at South by Southwest in 2014.

As a former brand manager at Marriott International, Maci led the redevelopment and relaunch of its first mobile game, Xplor. While leading the marketing department at the Washington Post’s subsidiary, The Root, she worked with clients such as Amtrak, Marriott and AT&T. In product placement at 20th Century Fox, Maci contributed to films including 27 Dresses, Marley & Me, Juno and The Devil Wears Prada.

Maci is a member of Chapman50, the Silicon Valley Leadership Group and the Internet Marketing Association’s Women Leaders Group. She has been invited to speak at conferences including South by Southwest, The White House Initiative on HBCU’s National HBCU Week Conference, Inc. Magazine’s GrowCo, IdeaFest, Adobe Summit, and Cox Communications’ Tech Summit.


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Homecoming at Chapman University 2017

The Chapman Family Homecoming Celebration

October 4-5, 2019

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

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