The Wright State Alumni Association has announced its annual Alumni Achievement Awards, recognizing and celebrating the accomplishments of Wright State University alumni.
Winners were selected from a pool of more than 110,000 alumni and were recognized for numerous accomplishments in their chosen fields. In addition to possessing high standards of integrity and character, they have also given their time and talent to benefit Wright State.
“On behalf of the Wright State Alumni Association and the Wright State community, we are delighted to recognize this year’s Alumni Achievement Award recipients for their continued support and commitment to Wright State University, their professional accomplishments and service to their communities,” said Bob Reynolds, president of the association’s Board of Directors.
The following award winners were honored:
Steven Bognar ’86
Alumnus of the Year
Steven Bognar graduated with a Bachelor of Fine Arts from the Motion Pictures Program in 1986. The acclaimed documentary filmmaker won the Academy Award for Best Documentary Feature in 2020 for “American Factory.” His successes also include winning an Emmy Award, Sundance Film Festival Award, Independent Spirit Award and Directors’ Guild of America Award.
Bognar has worked closely with Wright State faculty and students since his graduation, serving as a faculty member for eight years and collaborating closely with Motion Pictures founding faculty member, Julia Reichert, on a series of internationally recognized films focused largely on the experience of average people living in southwest Ohio.
Working in every facet of filmmaking, from directing and cinematography to editing and producing, Bognar has elevated the level of filmmaking in this region and brought great attention and acclaim to Wright State.
Bognar and Reichert’s films include an unflinching look at the lives of children with cancer and their family’s experiences with the life and death realities of it in “A Lion In The House” (which received an Emmy Award); a deeply personal exploration of Dayton’s economic struggles during the closing of the Moraine GM plant in “The Last Truck” (which was nominated for an Academy Award); and “American Factory,” which looks at the reopening of that same plant under new management as a Chinese-owned auto glass factory.
Bognar and Reichert made their first stop on returning from the Academy Awards a visit to Wright State’s Tom Hanks Center for Motion Pictures to share their success with students and the campus community. Bognar was a central figure in the design and execution of the center.
Bognar consistently employs students and graduates to work on his films and invited Wright State’s Department of Theatre, Dance and Motion Pictures to serve as a co-sponsor for the Dayton premiere of “American Factory.”
Steven Adams ’87, ’89
Distinguished Alumni Achievement Award
Steven Adams earned his bachelor’s degree in 1987 and his master’s degree in 1989 in engineering physics. He is currently a senior research physicist at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base.
After graduating with his master’s degree, Adams began his career in the Air Force Research Laboratory at Wright-Patterson as a research physicist and electrical engineer in the Aerospace Systems Directorate.
Adams has since remained a loyal and vital part of the organization, currently managing laboratories and leading teams in cutting-edge plasma diagnostics research for the Air Force. Along the way, he earned his Ph.D. in chemical physics from The Ohio State University.
In 1990, Adams began teaching physics as an adjunct professor at Wright State. For 30 years, he has made physics fun and engaging for countless students with his real-world demonstrations, homemade physics covers of popular songs and natural ability to break down complex ideas. His rave reviews from students are a product of his love of teaching. He often extends offers to promising students to work alongside him at Wright-Patterson, an opportunity that has opened many doors for the students.
Adams has instilled the desire to learn in his five children, all of whom have pursued or will pursue their education through Wright State. He has been a coach for various youth sports leagues and supported his community as a set builder for Tecumseh High School musicals.
Joey Monda ’12
Graduate of the Last Decade
Joey Monda earned a Bachelor of Fine Arts in musical theatre in 2012. He is producer and owner of Sing Out Louise! Productions and a Tony Award Winner for Best Musical in 2019 for “Hadestown.”
As a student at Wright State, Monda was actively involved in leading the student-run theatre, the Jubilee Directing Lab, and interning with The Human Race Theatre Company. He also hosted a weekly radio show on WWSU for a year.
In the summer before his senior year, Monda interned with theatre producer and Sirius XM radio host Seth Rudetsky, with whom he began a professional relationship that continued after graduation and led to off-Broadway and Broadway productions.
Monda formed his own producing and theatre management firm, Sing Out Louise Productions, through which he helped produce the Broadway productions of “Allegiance,” “The Inheritance,” “Slave Play,” “The New One,” “Mrs. Doubtfire” and “Hadestown.”
Monda also led a new sector of the entertainment industry in developing innovative contracts and structures to film and release Broadway shows for Cineplex release and pay-per-view showings, making live theatre available to everyone. He was the lead producer for the video release of the Broadway musical “Bandstand,” which demonstrated the effectiveness of this new marketing model.
Monda has become a critical link in connecting new graduates with mentors in New York City, where many of them begin their professional lives. His engagement in the annual industry immersion week of the Department of Theatre, Dance and Motion Pictures has helped make it effective as an admired and imitated professional gateway experience.
Honorary Alumni Award
Carol Graff is a longtime Wright State faculty member, two-time mayor of Beavercreek and currently president of the Greene County Library Board.
In 1974, Graff became the first woman appointed to the Board of Zoning Appeals in Beavercreek, the first female Beavercreek Township trustee, participating in the incorporation effort of the City of Beavercreek and then serving for 26 years. After Beavercreek became a city, Graff became a city council member for over a decade. In 1986, she became the first woman to become mayor, serving two terms.
Graff has served on the Miami Valley Regional Planning Commission; Greene County Water-Wastewater Advisory Committee; Greene County Health District Advisory Committee; Greene County Threat, Needs and Risk Assessment Committee for Homeland Security; and the City of Beavercreek Youth Development Council. She has served as president of the Greene County Library Board since 2007.
Graff served for nearly 17 years as an adjunct instructor in the College of Engineering and Computer Science, starting at Wright State in the 1980s. She was also an adjunct instructor in the Department of Mathematics and Statistics for over a decade. While teaching, she coordinated the Foreign Student and Faculty Exchange Programs and the Gifted and Talented Program.
During Graff’s tenure, she was called on by the administration to serve on committees that were instrumental in shaping the future of the university. As a Beavercreek public official, she served as an important interface between the university and the community.
Graff has financially supported the university for 34 years.
James Helton ’04
Volunteer Service Award
James Helton graduated with a bachelor’s degree in computer engineering in 2004 and a master’s in electrical engineering in 2007. He is an engineer at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base’s Life Cycle Management Center
Helton has volunteered for the Wright State Alumni Association for eight years. Since the 2012–2013 season, he has volunteered at home basketball games in the Wright State Nutter Center’s Alumni Zone. As an Alumni Zone captain, he helps set up the zone, greets fellow alumni Raider fans and serves snacks. Helton approaches each game with a positive attitude and provides a friendly face and warm environment for fans. He has also volunteered for Move-In Day, helping incoming Wright State students move into residence halls.