2006 Program Distinguished Alumni

College of Liberal Arts graduates exhibit many fascinating paths to success. Each year we celebrate the accomplishments of our alumni at an Outstanding Alumni Awards Ceremony.


Carl Anthony "Tony" Blau

'82 B.A. German

Tony Blau is a native of Ohio and a graduate of West Carrollton High School. He began learning German in high school and developed his fluency as a Rotary exchange student to Germany. While at Wright State from 1978-82, Tony took all of our advanced German courses and completed a German major in addition to his pre-medical studies. He was also inducted into Delta Phi Alpha, the National German Honor Society, and graduated summa cum laude.

After leaving Wright State, he earned his M.D. degree at The Ohio State University and completed an internship and residency at Duke University. Since 1989, Tony has been at the University of Washington, Seattle, where he is currently professor of medicine in the Division of Hematology. He is author or co-author of seven book chapters, forty-two articles, and dozens of abstracts. His current research is focused on developing a new generation of cell-based therapies. Until recently, Tony was an active soccer player; he continues to enjoy swimming, biking, and racquetball. He and his wife, Sibel, an oncologist and president of a private practice, have four children: Benny, Manya, Elif, and Melisa.

Adrienne Cassel

'91 M.A. English

Adrienne Cassel holds an M.F.A. from Bennington College, an M.A. from Wright State University, and a B.A. from Central State University. She is currently working on a Ph.D. in Poetry at the University of Cincinnati.

Adrienne is an assistant professor of English at Sinclair Community College and an adjunct instructor in Women's Studies at Wright State University. In the summer, she teaches poetry at the Institute on Writing and Teaching at Wright State. She is also a visiting writer and docent for the Dayton Art Institute.

With Mary Beth Pringle, Adrienne founded the Five Rivers Poetry Project, which was awarded a Phi Kappa Phi Literacy Grant in 2004. Her poems have appeared in 5 A.M., Nexus, The Bennington Review, and Flights. Adrienne's poem “Learning to Fly” received the 2000 Paul Laurence Dunbar Memorial Poetry Prize. Her essays on teaching have appeared in the Instructor's Guide to The Norton Field Guide to Writing (Richard Bullock, 2005), and the Association of Writers and Writing Programs Pedagogy Forum (2006).

Lenny Daniel

'89 B.F.A. Dance

By the time he graduated, Lenny Daniel had already performed professionally with the Dayton Ballet and Norwegian Cruise Lines, and spent a summer studying with the Royal Danish Ballet in Denmark . He was then bestowed the honor of being named Outstanding Dance Major from the National Association of Dance in 1990.

Lenny was honored to perform the role of Alonzo in the final Broadway Company of “CATS.” He performed in, assistant directed and toured nationally with the Madison Square Garden production of “The Wizard of Oz,” starring Roseanne Barr and legendary Mickey Rooney. Career highlights include NYC Opera's “Wonderful Town,” at Lincoln Center, U.S. National tours of “Camelot,” and “South Pacific,” both starring Robert Goulet, and the pre-Broadway tour of “Jekyll & Hyde,” as well as the World Premier cast of the spectacular, “Sinatra ... His Voice, His World, His Way,” at Radio City Music Hall. Last year, Lenny was critically acclaimed as Eglamour in Shakespeare's “Two Gentlemen of Verona – The Musical” at Baltimore 's Center Stage Theater. More recently he was in “Here Lies Jenny,” with award winning star Bebe Neuwirth in NYC and San Francisco , where he was also the production's dance captain for choreographer, Ann Reinking. Currently, Lenny can be seen in the national and international touring company of the musical “ Chicago ,” which is playing venues all over the USA , as well as Japan and Canada and will be heading to Dubai this May.

Lenny is a very proud uncle to his niece and nephew, Alexis and Christopher, and is always happy to baby-sit in his “spare” time.

Diana Dickinson

'86 B.A. Philosophy

Diana Dickinson returned to school after a 14-year career in corporate accounting and graduated from Wright State in 1986. She went on to the University of Dayton , where she earned her J.D. in 1989.

She is now a senior trial attorney and chief, Eastern Trial Division, in the Office of the Chief Trial Attorney, U.S. Air Force Base, at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base. There Diana practices complex civil litigation involving Air Force contracts and appears before the Armed Services Board of Contract Appeals. In 1999, she was named Federal Employee of the Year in the Dayton Metropolitan Area in the Scientific/Engineering/Medical/Legal category and was the first attorney to win in that category. Diana is a member of the Ohio State Bar Association and the American Bar Association and is an adjunct professor of Law at UD.

Diana is a board member and legal advisor for Fisher/Nightingale Houses, Inc., an Ohio non-profit corporation that almost completely supports the Fisher Houses compassionate care facilities for current and retired active duty military and their dependents, who are being treated at the Wright-Patterson AFB Medical Center. She is also a board member, treasurer, and member of the strategic planning committee for Rhythm in Shoes, a national touring dance company based in Dayton.

Marianne Fisher-Giorlando

'79 B.A. Sociology

Marianne Fisher-Giorlando graduated the same year her eldest child graduated from high school. Inspired and encouraged by the Wright State faculty to pursue her Ph.D. in Sociology, Marianne was accepted at The Ohio State University where she pursued a degree in Sociology, first emphasizing Social Theory and then switching to Criminology.

Her first full-time job was in the Sociology Department in Cedar Falls , Iowa. Marianne then joined the Criminal Justice Department at Grambling State University. She has now been at Grambling for 20 years where she is a full professor responsible for the department's corrections courses. She served as coordinator for the department 2002-2003 and was acting head of the department from February through July 2005.

Louisiana Endowment for the Humanities recognizes Marianne as one of two Louisiana prison scholars in the state. She has consulted for various prison films, including The Green Mile, and is on the editorial board of the American Journal of Criminal Justice and reviews for Women and Criminal Justice, Sociological Spectrum, Louisiana History and Feminist Criminology. Her honors include the Lincoln Parish NAACP award for community activism, Who's Who Among America 's Teachers, 2004 and the Excellence in Research Award for 2002-2003.

Brenda Haney

'98 B.S.W. Social Work

Brenda Haney graduated with honors from Wright State University in 1998, while also balancing a full-time job and parenting responsibilities. She quickly completed her M.S.W. at the University of Cincinnati in 2000.

Brenda has been a social worker at Daymont Behavioral Health Center since 2002, and she is currently the manager of adult and youth substance abuse services and the HIV/AIDS prevention program. She has consistently received high praise from her supervisors and colleagues for her caring, organizational skills, high level of determination, social work professionalism and values, commendable work ethic and, equally as important, her very pleasant and unassuming personality.

Students are benefiting from these same skills, knowledge and values as Brenda is also an adjunct professor at Wright State University teaching Social Welfare Policy and Cultural Competency in a Diverse World. She has also taught continuing education workshops for the department on topics related to mental health assessment and intervention.

Brenda was named NASW Social Worker of the Year for 2005 and is looking forward to the title of NASW Regional Director.

Steven Houser

'73 B.M. Music Education

Steven Houser is professor of music and past interim chair at Lincoln University, Jefferson City, Missouri and is the conductor/music director of the Jefferson City Symphony Orchestra. Steven is a Missouri-certified woodwind adjudicator and is a national certified Music Teachers' National Association woodwind instructor.

Steven wrote and developed a Bachelor of Science degree, with emphasis in Sacred Music, which was subsequently approved by Lincoln University, the State of Missouri, and NASM. He is a certified Methodist choir director and Presbyterian choir director.

Steven has been a performing member of the Air Force Band (Wright-Patterson AFB) and the Dayton Philharmonic Orchestra and has performed orchestra solo works both on alto saxophone and bassoon in international orchestras in Italy, Austria, Hungary, and Switzerland and for the school children in Cairo, Egypt. Steven is a 1995 Fulbright Scholar-Egypt. He states that “none of the above and many other musical and research opportunities would have been possible without my Wright State undergraduate studies and my most musical wife Jan.” Jan Houser, a noted pianist, accompanist, and piano instructor was recently selected the Missouri MTNA Teacher of the Year. The Housers have one son, Steven, a very nice daughter-in-law, and two very special grandchildren, Steven and Emily.

Tess Little

'75 B.F.A. Sculpture

Tess Little received a BFA with a concentration in sculpture from WSU in 1975 and a MFA from Cranbrook Academy of Art in 1980. She has taught at Sinclair Community College since 1980 and has won several awards for her excellence in teaching, including being named one of Ohio 's top 100 educators.

Since 1993, Tess has been the project director and originator of the collaborative REACH Across Dayton project (Realizing Ethnic Awareness and Cultural Heritage) to celebrate cultural diversity through the arts. Her REACH program actually delivers on complex, community based artworks—and they are spectacular! In 1995-98, Tess conceived and coordinated the Heritage Sculpture installed on Courthouse Square. This 48-foot relief mural is one of the largest public art projects in the United States. Over 2,900 clay tiles were made by citizens of the Miami Valley in 26 community workshops, artists contributed another 100 tiles and the whole was fashioned into a unique continuous work cast in bronze.

Just recently, Tess was the driving force behind another marvelous community art project, The Many Faces of Dayton. This photomural combines about 4,500 photographic images of people living and working in the region. Installed as the opening exhibit in the new home of the Dayton Visual Arts Center, this 72-foot long finished mural printed on linen truly reminds us of the different individuals who together make up a community.

Betsy O'Ryan

'93 B.A. International Studies

Betsy O'Ryan was born in Abilene, Kansas and spent her childhood on the East Coast before moving to Beavercreek as a teenager. She is married to her husband of 16 years, Earl, and has two beautiful daughters, Alana (age 5) and Ainsley (6 months). Betsy originally came to Wright State as a Computer Science major, but after taking Donna Schlagheck's Introduction to Politics course, she switched to International Studies and never looked back.

As a student at WSU, Betsy was an active member of the Honors program, the Model UN team and played intramural soccer. She graduated with her B.A. cum laude in 1993. After leaving WSU, she attended George Washington University 's Elliot School of International Affairs and spent one year in Ohio State's Political Science Ph.D. program before leaving to pursue a career at the National Air and Space Intelligence Center (NASIC) in 1998. In her capacity as an intelligence specialist, Betsy has traveled the world in support of US national security. In recognition of her achievements and service, she received the Air Force Intelligence Award for Civilian of the Year in 1999 and (in addition to her work at NASIC) for the last four years has taught as an adjunct at WSU, where her History and Politics of Intelligence course garners rave reviews.

Katherine Rowell

'89 M.A. Applied Behavioral Science

Katherine R. Rowell earned her Bachelor's and Master's degrees at Wright State University. She was recently named Outstanding Community Colleges Professor of the Year by the Council for Advancement and Support of Education.

Katherine has taught sociology at Sinclair Community College since 1996. She has won numerous awards for teaching excellence, including “Who's Who Among America's Teachers” (1996, 1997, 2002, and 2004) and the 2005 North Central Sociological Professor of the Year.

In 2003, Katherine was one of 15 community college faculty chosen for a Fulbright group study abroad trip to Botswana, Swaziland and South Africa to develop curriculum for the Midwest Institute for International Education.

From 2001 to 2005, she served as advisor for Sinclair's Nu Pi, Phi Theta Kappa Chapter, which was recognized as one of the top 25 chapters in the United States for four consecutive years under her leadership. Katherine earned her Ph.D. from Ohio State University.

Dorothy Smith

'81 M.A. American History

Dorothy Smith was born and raised in the San Francisco Bay Area and attended San Francisco State University. In the late 60's, she “tuned in, turned on, and dropped out” of San Francisco State.

Dorothy moved across the bay to Berkeley and became involved in various political activities and other mischief. By a very circuitous route, she found herself in Yellow Springs in the late 70's, right up the road from Wright State. She completed her B.A. in Anthropology at Wright State in 1979 and then went on to get her M.A. in History in 1981.

Dorothy worked as an archivist in the Special Collections at the Wright State University Dunbar Library for 15 years, then took a position at the American Jewish Archives at the Hebrew Union College in Cincinnati where she currently works.

She was an adjunct professor at Wright State from 1987-96 in the Graduate Program in Public History and is currently an adjunct professor at Wilmington College - Cincinnati teaching The Civil War Era.

Todd Tucky

'90 B.A. Anthropology

Todd Tucky graduated from Wright State in 1990 with a B.A. in Anthropology and went on to The Ohio State University to pursue graduate work in archaeology. He completed his M.A. degree in 1992, but while working toward the Ph.D. was sidetracked into the information technology world by taking a position with the Ohio Historical Society.

Todd became the resident computer and IT at the Ohio Historic Preservation Office (OHPO) and was named their computer systems manager, a position he held from 1997-2003. Since October 2003, he has held the position of information systems manager for the Historical Society, in which he oversees the Society's network and internet systems, the GIS program, and support and reporting functions for the OHS Accounting and Budgeting process. In December 2005, he was recognized as a certified GIS professional. Among his numerous accomplishments has been the development of a comprehensive GIS system for the archaeological and historical sites maintained by the OHPO, which received the Best Practice Award for the State of Ohio in 2003. He has also been the project manager for the digitization of all the paper inventory forms and maps for the OHPO.

To date, Todd has received almost 1 million dollars in grant support for his GIS, digitization, and historic preservation work.

Susan Valiquette

'92 B.A. Religion

Reverend Susan Valiquette graduated from Wright State in 1992 and attended United Theological Seminary of the Twin Cities ( Minnesota ), where she earned the Master of Divinity degree.

Susan then served as pastor of a United Church of Christ congregation in Battle Creek, Michigan for five years. She met her husband, Scott Couper, when they were both volunteers at Jubilee Partners (a Christian commune started by Mennonites) in Comer, Georgia. Her husband also earned his Master of Divinity degree (Chicago Theological Seminary, 1999), and both were appointed as missionaries through the UCC and are currently serving in Durban, South Africa. Susan is chaplain at Inanda Seminary, a hundred year-old boarding school for girls (grades 7-12), with a current enrollment of 245. As chaplain, she has a captivated teenage congregation and currently teaches Christian Education and Life Orientation. Her greatest joy and challenge is counseling, as she values the one-on-one conversations with the students. Susan hopes that she will have the opportunity to one day further her education in the area of psychology.

She and her husband have two children, Micah (6) and Madeline (4). Micah was born in Michigan and Madeline was adopted in South Africa.

David Vesely

'87 B.A. Classics

David Vesely came to Wright State in 1984 while still on active duty in the United States Air Force, stationed at WPAFB. He intended to major in Philosophy, but fell in love with Classical Humanities and eventually graduated (summa cum laude and with Departmental Honor) with a degree in Classics in 1987. After further study of Latin at Wright State, David earned a Master's Degree in Latin from Kent State in 1992. He was hired by Kettering Fairmont High School and has since directed their Latin program.

David took an already successful Latin program and made it outstanding. It is a large program and very active in statewide and national organizations. His program won the Hildesheim Award for best high school Latin program in Ohio in 2003. David has taken his students on study trips to Italy most years. The thought of traipsing around Rome, Naples, Florence, with 40 teenagers in tow boggles the mind, but he does it with aplomb, and his students love him. Some of them have come to Wright State after graduation and, whatever their major, stop by the Classics department to remind us of their wonderful high school Latin teacher!

Ronald S. Volkerding

'05 M.P.A. Public Administration

Ronald Volkerding was selected by the Department of Urban Affairs & Geography to be its Outstanding Alumnus for exemplary commitment to his profession, his community, and his alma mater. His dedication to promote the common good distinguishes him and exemplifies our department's mission.

In his professional capacity as deputy director of the Greene County Sanitary Engineering Department, Ronald provided leadership throughout the organization's 2004-05 strategic plan and conversion to performance management. This effort resulted in significant operational, communication, and service improvements. People in Greene County have been living healthier and the environment has been protected through his leadership on many projects such as the Northwest Master Plan and the Cedarville and Shawnee Hills system expansions and replacements.

Ronald also serves on many community and professional boards. He is the chair of the Dayton Chapter of the American Society of Civil Engineers, treasurer of the Little Miami partnership, and he serves on numerous water protection committees and participates in two engineering honorary societies and our Pi Alpha Alpha Public Administration Honor Society.

Finally, Ronald supports the department's master program, alumni events, and serves as a role model for less experienced students earning MPA degrees.

Michael Wiehe

'98 B.A. Political Science

Michael R. Wiehe graduated cum laude in June, 1998, with his B.A. in Political Science. He served as head delegate on the award winning Model UN team for two years, and has volunteered as director of a Simulated Security Council at the Model UN Conference DAYMUNC co-hosted every February by Sinclair Community College and Wright State University.

Michael worked for Dayton Mayor Mike Turner and Ohio Governor Bob Taft before heading to Washington, DC to join the Congressional staff of Congressman Turner's office. Starting as press secretary and scheduler, he was promoted to legislative assistant, and in February 2006 became legislative director. Michael's notable accomplishments include working to save 3,500 jobs, while adding another 1,000 during the 2005 Base Realignment and Closure process. He has served as liaison with the Croatian and Bosnia-Hercegovinan governments, and designed the House Armed Services Committee Issue Forum on Post NATO Security in the Balkan Region. Michael worked closely with the 10 th Anniversary Committee of The Dayton Peace Accords and has welcomed several WSU students to internships in Washington , DC.

He and his wife Heather, who works for the FBI, reside in Maryland.