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Alumni award winners for 2017

3:54 PM  Sep 6th, 2017
by Gita Balakrishnan


Joseph Desch ’29

Bachelor of Science

Electrical Engineering


During World War II, Joseph Desch played a key role in helping U.S. forces decode enemy messages from German U-boats. As an electrical engineer and inventor, Desch was already conducting research regarding the use of tubes and circuitry in counting devices with the hopes of creating high-speed mathematical machines for the National Cash Register Co.

In 1942, the Dayton native’s research in electronic counting helped NCR convince the U.S. Navy that they could decrypt the coded messages being sent by German enemy warships better than the current technology. Desch’s lab became the United States Naval Laboratory.

Over the next 14 months, Desch, his team of 600 WAVES (Women Accepted for Voluntary Emergency Service) and an engineering staff of 24 created 121 top-secret decoding machines called Bombes.

The Bombe was taller than a person and twice as long, with miles of wiring attached to thousands of vacuum tubes. As it worked to find different letter combinations, the noise rose to deafening levels.

Based on some historian accounts, up to 54 U-boats were destroyed because of information received from the Bombe.

Desch was awarded the Medal of Merit by President Harry S. Truman July 16, 1947. Desch continued working at NCR until his retirement in 1972. He died in 1987 before his secret mission was declassified.



Jonathan Judge ’93

Bachelor of Arts

English/Public Relations



Not many people can say they dunked Justin Timberlake in a pool of green slime. And got paid to do it.

But for Jonathan Judge, that’s part of his job. Judge is enjoying a career as a television and film director and producer. He has directed shows that have aired on Nickelodeon, Disney, Comedy Central, CBS and HBO.

“It’s just such a perfect fit for me,” Judge said. “I have the best job in the world. I don’t know what else I’d be doing if it wasn’t this.”

Among his accomplishments, he is the recipient of the 2014 Directors Guild of America Award for Outstanding Directorial Achievement in Children’s Programs and a winner of a British Academy Award in 2006. He also has been nominated three times for the daytime Emmy Awards.

Judge has directed 12 pilots, 10 of which have gone on to series. He has directed the shows Tosh.0, Blue’s Clues, School of Rock and Life in Pieces, to name a few.

He said the University prepared him to remain inspired and humble always.

“To have a purpose and an intent in life, then work hard for it — those things were instilled and encouraged at Dayton,” Judge said.



John Beran ’74

Bachelor of Science

Industrial Engineering

Master of Science

Management Science ’79


John Beran has served the University in just about every way possible.  He became involved with volunteering 25 years ago with alumni relations and has remained a constant figure.

He currently is a member of the advisory council at the School of Engineering, where he was an integral part of its strategic visioning process. Previously, he has served on his reunion committee and the Alumni Association board and has been an executive in residence at UD, working on initiatives including the Innovation Center, ETHOS and the Center for Competitive Change.

His passion for the University stems from his own experience as a student when his professors taught him important lessons, both academically and in life.

“My professors were not just going through the motions,” Beran said. “They would meet us anywhere to help us understand a topic. They taught me about the person I wanted to be.”

Currently, Beran is serving on the board of Flyer Enterprises as an expert adviser.  He is the retired executive vice president and CIO for Comerica Inc., where he was also a member of the Comerica management policy committee as well the bank’s board of directors. He has had a successful 43-year career in information systems management, marketing and electronic banking. Beran continues to serve on multiple industry and community boards.



Christine Hill ’78

Bachelor of Arts

Secondary Education


In Ohio, she is known as Chris Hill. But in Nairobi, Kenya, she is affectionately called “Mama Uji.”

Because of Hill’s relentless and selfless work at an elementary school in the middle of the Mukuru kwa Njenga slum of Nairobi, 2,100 students who would otherwise go without receive breakfast — a maize-based meal called uji.

Hill became involved in 2002 with Our Lady of Nazareth Primary School after a talk with Brother Ray Fitz, S.M. Since then, she has returned twice a year to volunteer, helping the children who live in the slum.

In 2007, Hill realized that most of the children attending school would arrive on empty stomachs. They were not alert in class, and test scores were low. She approached Father Marty Solma, S.M., who was running the school, on how to help these children get nutrition.

After some discussion, it was decided the smaller kids could receive one cup of uji at the start of the day. Hill and her husband, Allen, underwrote the cost to feed the children in kindergarten through fourth grade.

Later, a parish in the UK and PricewaterhouseCoopers in Nairobi joined in and underwrote feeding the remaining fifth through eighth grades. Since then, test scores have risen.

“The gift is in the giving,” Hill said. “The people there celebrate me, but they don’t understand what their happiness and progress does for me. They are giving me the gift. It’s an absolute privilege to be able to do this for them.”



John Gravier ’08

Bachelor of Arts

Political Science


When John Gravier decided to join Teach for America for service after graduation, he didn’t intend to be an educator for the long haul. In fact, he planned to become a lawyer.

However, after spending time teaching sixth- and eighth-graders math for a few years, Gravier knew that teaching was his calling. In his three years with Teach for America, he contributed to improving the school’s rating from an F to a C and won Teacher of the Year at 24 years old.

“I think teaching is the most important job out there and the hardest job in the world,” Gravier said. “I work with the best kids and am trying to teach them and create the best school in the city. It’s really cool and fun.”

Gravier moved from Florida to New Orleans and is now the school director of Dolores T. Aaron Academy — a role he accepted after being at the school for six years. As director, Gravier has moved his school from an F+ rating to a C within three years.

Gravier admitted that teaching in the city devastated by Hurricane Katrina has been a challenge but also his focus. Every school in the city was damaged, and buildings have only recently been rebuilt.

“Our kids deserve the best education,” he said. “I am very focused and driven to make that mission happen. I can’t see myself doing anything else.”



Molly MacCready ’08

Bachelor of Arts



Molly MacCready established the nonprofit organization Child Restoration Outreach Support Organization (CROSO) in 2007 to provide post-secondary scholarships to former street children in Uganda.

MacCready envisioned CROSO during her junior year of college when she studied abroad in Uganda. At the end of the semester, MacCready had to write a paper and chose to interview children who were being helped by Child Restoration Outreach where she interned.

“When I interviewed one of the oldest boys (George), I was really surprised to hear he had been accepted to a university but couldn’t go because of a lack of funding. I was struck by the injustice of my friend’s situation. He had lived on the streets as a young boy and had overcome countless obstacles. I couldn’t believe that he was getting stopped now.”

When she returned home, MacCready gave a presentation to her church and included George’s story. A fellow parishioner came up to her and said, “Tell your friend George to start dreaming because I’m going to pay for the rest of his education,” which in Uganda is $2,500 per year.

MacCready then founded CROSO, which has now supported more than 30 former street children in attaining higher education.

“Working for CROSO is one of the ways I have found to acknowledge what’s possible when people are given opportunities, and now my job is to inspire others to see that potential, too,” MacCready said.


One Response to Alumni award winners for 2017

  1. Jeanne Palermo says:

    It is wonderful to read of the accomplishments of all these deserving Flyers. Special kudos to Jonathan Judge, an alum of the University Honors Program which holds a special place in our hearts.

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