2023 Alumni Achievement Awards celebrate distinguished Wright State community members

The Wright State University Alumni Association announced the recipients of its 2023 Alumni Achievement Awards, recognizing and celebrating the accomplishments of Wright State University alumni and friends.

Recipients were selected from a pool of more than 120,000 Wright State alumni and are recognized for numerous accomplishments in their chosen fields. In addition to possessing high standards of integrity and character, they have given their time and talent to benefit Wright State and its Alumni Association.

The following recipients were honored:

Aurea Rivera ’82
Distinguished Alumni Achievement Award

Aurea Rivera ’82

Aurea L. Rivera, who earned a master’s degree in systems engineering from Wright State, is a highly qualified professional with a wealth of experience and expertise in engineering, project management and intelligence.

Rivera is an entrepreneur and Department of Defense consultant. She serves as chief scientist for Epsilon C5I Inc., a NOVASTAR prime contractor in Beavercreek. She also served as a senior advisor with the Riverside Research Institute, providing advice and assistance to support the intelligence community.

With over 34 years of service as an Air Force civilian, Rivera is a national expert in measurement and signature intelligence, signals intelligence, open source, geospatial intelligence, foreign avionics and foreign material exploitation. As the leader of a multidisciplinary team responsible for developing strategies for space signatures, she demonstrated her ability to manage complex projects and lead diverse teams effectively.

She holds certifications as a professional engineer, project management professional and agile professional, as well as an Ohio engineering certificate of authorization.

Rivera has held several important national committee assignments, including serving as chair for the Foreign Instrumentation Signals Committee, the Air Force representative to the Scientific and Technical Intelligence Committee and the Air Force alternate to the Weapons and Space Systems Intelligence Committee.

In addition to her professional accomplishments, Rivera is actively involved in the community as a STEM mentor for women and minority students, the Ohio chair of the MATHCOUNTS competition and the NASIC Association Larry Benson Scholarship Committee and president of the Engineers Foundation of Ohio.

Mark Espy ’81
Alumnus of the Year Award

Mark Espy ’81

Mark Espy, who received his master’s degree in microbiology from Wright State, spent 35 years as a clinical researcher at the Mayo Clinic, where he helped develop a test to detect the presence of coronaviruses in humans.

He joined the Mayo Clinic in 1985 as a developmental research technologist in virology in the Division of Clinical Microbiology. He was later named an associate in the Department of Laboratory Medicine and Pathology and assistant professor of laboratory medicine and pathology at the Mayo Clinic College of Medicine and Science.

At the Mayo Clinic, Espy developed the use of molecular techniques, in particular the polymerase chain reaction (PCR), to increase the sensitivity of viral detection and the detection of viruses from specimens that were difficult or unacceptable for conventional detection methods. Notable tests include the detection of herpes simplex virus from spinal fluid, detection of influenza A and B virus in respiratory specimens, detection and differentiation of smallpox DNA and detection of the COVID-19 virus in nasal specimens.

Espy also trained residents, fellows and students in molecular diagnostic techniques. He has presented his work at local and national workshops and meetings and has contributed to more than 100 journal articles, including many as first author.

He retired from the Mayo Clinic in 2020. He was a member of the Pan American Society for Clinical Virology and the American Society for Microbiology and served on the editorial board of the Journal of Clinical Microbiology.

In addition to his master’s degree from Wright State, Espy received his bachelor’s degree in life sciences from Otterbein College and studied microbiology at the University of Louisville.

Christina Knowles ’14, ’16
Graduate of Last Decade Award

Christina Knowles ’14, ’16

Christina Knowles is the director of development at Good Samaritan Foundation-Dayton and a distinguished member of the fundraising team at Miami Valley Hospital. Miami Valley Hospital was ranked by U.S. News and World Report as the top hospital in the Dayton metropolitan area and ninth among Ohio hospitals in 2022. Good Samaritan Foundation-Dayton supports the Miami Valley Hospital North campus in Englewood.

Knowles earned a master’s degree in public administration in 2016 and a bachelor’s degree in professional and technical writing in 2014 from Wright State.

She grew up in Trotwood and considers it an honor to work in and give back to the community that raised her.

She serves on the Miami Valley Hospital North Diabetes Center Advisory Committee in collaboration with physicians, nurses, educators and community health professionals. She is also a member of the Northmont Rotary Club and the Association for Healthcare Philanthropy, an international organization for development professionals who encourage charity in health care organizations.

Knowles received a 2018 Dayton Business Journal 40 Under 40 award and the 2020 Association for Healthcare Philanthropy 40 Under 40 award, which recognizes health care development professionals who have demonstrated impressive career achievements and deep community involvement.

She resides in Clayton with her husband, Alan, and their three children, Eli, Amelia and Henry.

Stephen Hampton ’80
Volunteer Service Award

Stephen Hampton ’80 (Photo by Embrace Life Photography)

Stephen Hampton, who graduated from Wright State in 1980 with a Bachelor of Music in Music Theory and Composition, is an award-winning composer for television and film in Los Angeles.

He has composed music for national television commercials, including scores for Nike, Pepsi, McDonald’s, GE and Adidas. His television credits include “Just Shoot Me” on NBC, “Inside Jokes” on Amazon Prime, “Alaska: The Last Frontier” on Discovery and “Wizards of Waverly Place,” “Jessie” and “Bunk’d” on the Disney Channel. His documentary credits include “Gilbert” and “Jonathan Scott’s Power Trip.”

Hampton joined Admusic in Hollywood in 1984 as a staff composer and wrote music for national TV commercials. In 1996, he and his partner John Adair purchased the company. By 2004, they had branched out into television work and renamed the company Emoto Music. They sold Emoto in 2011 and now concentrate their compositional efforts in television and film.

Hampton has been honored with 12 BMI Film/TV music awards, London International Awards and multiple Clio Awards.

One of the standout projects of his career was composing a fanfare for Wright State University that debuted at the 2007 inauguration of President David R. Hopkins. Hampton said it was a thrill to have the opportunity to compose a fanfare for Wright State and then hear it performed live at the university.

In 2016, Hampton volunteered his time and resources to install a state-of-the-art professional-level recording studio in Wright State’s Creative Arts Center as part of the $4.2 million Schuster Hall renovation. He described the studio as “small but definitely a Cadillac.” Highlights of the installation included a new upgraded array of Sennheiser and Neumann microphones setup over the audience. Six years later, Hampton returned to the Creative Arts Center to reset and upgrade the Schuster Hall recording equipment.

Virginia Krause Hess
Honorary Alumna Award

Virginia Krause Hess

Dayton sculptor Virginia Krause Hess, who is 98, has spent a lifetime creating sculptures celebrating the city of Dayton and its people. Her long list of accomplishments includes civilian service at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, where at 17 years old during World War II, she painted silhouettes of planes. Her silhouettes were printed in books and on posters, charts and playing cards to help soldiers identify the shadows of friendly aircraft so they wouldn’t shoot down their own planes. She also used her salary from Wright-Patterson to pay for flying lessons.

Hess sculptures are on display at Dayton Children’s Hospital, Dave Hall Plaza in downtown Dayton and Wright State University. Her five bronze medallions depicting military personnel in the Air Force, Army, Marines, Navy and Coast Guard are featured outside Wright State’s Veteran and Military Center. She also sculpted the bronze Veterans Monument display at Stubbs Park in Centerville.

She sculpted a bronze bust of Charles E. Taylor, the Wright brothers’ mechanic and creator of the engine that enabled Orville and Wilbur Wright to achieve controlled powered flight. The bust has become the basis for the Charlie Taylor Award given to aircraft mechanics for a 25-year perfect record, one of the most prestigious accolades in the field.

Hess has produced greeting cards and worked for foundries and a bronzed-shoe company. She also taught art at the Dayton Art Institute, the Art Academy in Cincinnati and the Springfield Art Center.

She has strong ties to Wright State. She served on the Friends of the Libraries board, which supports the University Libraries’ collections and programs. Her son, Peter Hess, attended Wright State and worked for the university as a photographer in the 1970s. Her daughter, Kris, graduated from Wright State with her bachelor’s degree in education. And Hess’ husband, who died in 2006, donated his body to the anatomical gift program at the Boonshoft School of Medicine.

“It’s an entirely different feeling here than any other university I’ve worked with,” Hess said. “There’s a feeling of compassion and friendship and caring here that you don’t feel at any other university. They’re so interested in helping everybody.”

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