More than 200 AFIT scholars earn diplomas at 2023 graduation

  • Published
  • By Caroline Clauson
  • 88th Air Base Wing Public Affairs

WRIGHT-PATTERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Ohio – Over 200 graduates endured years of late nights, long hours, painstaking research and pandemic ups and downs to finally cross the stage and receive their diplomas from the Air Force Institute of Technology’s Graduate School of Engineering and Management on March 23 at the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force.

This graduating class includes 172 Department of Defense officers, seven enlisted and 19 civilians, seven defense industry contractors and two international students from Australia and Israel.

Of the 208 degrees awarded, the Graduate School conferred 203 master’s degrees and five doctorate degrees in science, technology, engineering and math fields. One graduate earned dual degrees in data science and operations research. Students represent every branch of the military, with 157 Air Force, 13 Space Force, seven Army, four Marine and one Air National Guard members receiving degrees. Additionally, six graduates from previous quarters returned to walk in the ceremony.

Walter Jones, AFIT’s director and chancellor, introduced the ceremony’s guest speaker, retired Gen. Lester Lyles, former commander of Air Force Materiel Command at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base.

“Gen. Lyles is someone who I admired and respected for many years and who now has become a dear friend,” Jones said. “Given all his important activity, I’m delighted he could find the time to be with us tonight on this very special occasion.”

Lyles celebrated the passion that pushed the graduates through their education and challenged them to carry a similar passion for their fields into the next steps they’ll take for their nation.

“I’m a lover of technology and a lover of science,” Lyles said. “I have been my whole life. And as I look out in the audience, I know all of you exhibit and have expressed passion for science and technology. I love that passion.”

Other officials in attendance included Heidi Ries, AFIT provost and chief academic officer, and Adedeji Badiru, dean of the Graduate School.

Located at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, AFIT’s mission is to provide defense-focused graduate education and related research and operationally relevant initial skills training and professional continuing education to enable the Air and Space Forces to maintain its scientific and technological dominance.

“Communicate,” Lyles charged the graduates. “Like great engineers, you know that great communication is more than just transmitting. It’s mostly receiving. I’m a big believer in talking less and listening more. But I feel very confident that as you all get into your jobs, careers and whatever you’re going to be doing for your country and services, we will hear you by the excellence you’re going to demonstrate in the endeavors and technology you’re a part of.”

At an awards ceremony earlier in the day, the following students were recognized for their exemplary performance:

  • Capt. Matthew Johnson from the Electrical and Computer Engineering department received the Chancellor’s Award for producing the most exceptional individual master’s thesis. 
  • Capt. Linda Kuster from the Electrical and Computer Engineering department received the Mervin E. Gross Award for her exceptional academic achievement and high qualities of character, initiative and leadership. The award is named in honor of Brig. Gen. Mervin E. Gross, the institute’s first commandant.
  • Master Sgt. Benjamin Johnis from the Engineering Physics department received the Louis F. Polk Award. The winner of this award exhibits the highest standards of academic and professional accomplishment, and through his or her research, makes a significant contribution toward strengthening the nation’s industrial defense base.
  • Capt. Bret Wagner from the Electrical and Computer Engineering department received the Edwin E. Aldrin Sr. Award presented for displaying the most exceptional leadership characteristics while in the graduate program. The award is sponsored by the Wright Memorial Chapter of the Air Force Association and named in honor of Lieutenant Edwin E. Aldrin Sr., a member of the institute’s first graduating class in 1920. Upon graduation, he became AFIT’s first vice commandant.
  • Staff Sgt. Evan Lake from the Systems Engineering and Management department received the Secretary James G. Roche Award for demonstrating exceptional academic achievement through a combination of grade-point average and outstanding research, as well as high qualities of character, initiative, leadership and service. The award is named after Air Force Secretary James G. Roche, whose leadership in 2002 led to the first class of NCOs into the Graduate School of Engineering and Management.

The following students met all degree requirements and were approved for the designated degree (in bold): 

*Distinguished Graduate 

** Returned to walk 

Click on the degree category to see the graduate students names

Applied Physics

James Ethridge**

Lt. Col. Jesse Foster

Computer Science

Daniel Koranek**

Electrical Engineering

Lt. Col. David Lynes

Capt. Timothy Machin

Materials Science

Maj. Nathan Ellsworth

Nuclear Engineering

Lt. Col. Samuel Heider (Army)**

Operations Research

Matthew Ledwith

Optical Science and Engineering

Philip Plummer**

Robert Hickman

1st Lt. William Johnston

Maj. Eric LaPrade

Capt. Alexander Leaf

Capt. John Miller

Matthew Ratcliff

Capt. Spencer Sweat (Space Force)

Capt. Derek Yarke

Capt. Curtis Baker (Space Force) 

Maj. Daniel Banakos (Space Force) 

Capt. Benjamin Berezin (Space Force) 

Capt. Nicholas Francis 

1st Lt. Kathleen Hendershott 

Capt. Cristian Hernandez Rivera (Space Force) 

Capt. Kevin Hieronymus 

Capt. Corey Mack 

Capt. Zachary Ryan 

Capt. Gregory Sanders 

Capt. Katherine Ashton (Marine Corps) 

2nd Lt. Tessa Barbosa  

Capt. Christopher Bellanova, Jr. 

Cody Butzer 

Capt. Eidahn Eliash (Israel) 

Capt. Michael Guenther 

1st Lt. James Gunderson 

Capt. Samuel Hiltner 

2nd Lt. Bailey Hopkins 

2nd Lt. Noor Khan 

Titus Lee 

1st Lt. Edward Maxwell 

Capt. Alexander Moore 

Richard Nyquist 

Capt. Jesse Roberts 

Capt. Troy Soileau, Jr. 

Capt. Eric Stubblefield* 

Capt. Ryan Trenter 

2nd Lt. John Ursino 

Capt. Timothy Winkler (Marine Corps) 

Mary Collins 

Capt. Raymart De Asis 

Capt. Lauran Kittle 

Staff Sgt. Evan Lake* 

Capt. Tanner Gordon 

Michael Gross** 

2nd Lt. David Howe* 

Capt. Seth Hyra 

Capt. Dylan Shaver 

2nd Lt. Colton Stoner 

2nd Lt. Saumya Baswant 

Eric Burkhart 

2nd Lt. Joseph Canoy  

Capt. Alec Cook (Space Force) 

2nd Lt. Nicholas Higgs 

2nd Lt. Alexander Petrocelli 

Capt. Andrew Vogel* 

2nd Lt. Lindsay Dedrickson 

2nd Lt. Braeden Ede 

Capt. Gregory Egger 

Capt. Casey Reynolds 

Capt. Tyler Bransfield  

2nd Lt. Ryan Clendening 

2nd Lt. Jonathan Price  

Capt. Garret Rose 

2nd Lt. Alexander Stephens 

Maj. Quang Tran (Space Force) 

2nd Lt. Richard Feustel 

Capt. Ian Heffron 

2nd Lt. Jonathan Moore 

2nd Lt. Jonathan Nash 

Capt. Adam Nasi* 

2nd Lt. Caleb Richardson 

Master Sgt. Matthew Weeks 

2nd Lt. Brian Wheelhouse 

2nd Lt. Leif White 

2nd Lt. Nathaniel Wilson 

Capt. Ryan Zacher*  

Capt. Caleb Ahern 

Capt. Patrick Bennett, Jr. 

Capt. Trevor Bills* 

1st Lt. Jordan Black 

2nd Lt. James Demos 

Capt. Helga Leite Evora 

Capt. Joseph Moore, IV 

Capt. Scott Reilly 

Capt. Kyrie Rojo 

2nd Lt. Jacob Smith 

Capt. Kayla Vogler 

Capt. Jacob Chan 

2nd Lt. Tallas Goo 

Capt. Michael Reyneke 

2nd Lt. John Thebarge 

2nd Lt. Todd Campo 

2nd Lt. Nicholas Crino* 

Capt. Brandon Harvill  

Capt. Nathan Johnston 

2nd Lt. Byungmoo Kim 

2nd Lt. Grace Metzgar 

2nd Lt. Connor Shaw (dual degree) 

2nd Lt. Franklin Sun 

Capt. Luke Bergeron 

Thomas Butterick 

Griffin Curtis 

Maj. Eric Fairchild 

Capt. Jesse Farber 

Flavio Fernandes 

Master Sgt. Michael Ingold*  

Capt. Matthew Johnson* 

1st Lt. Connor Martin 

2nd Lt. Wyatt Melloy  

Capt. Luis Montenegro 

Flight Lt. Jacob Morrison (Australia) 

Capt. Matthew Rofrano 

Capt. Stephen Stumpf, Jr. 

Andrew Van de Motter 

Capt. Rudolf  VonNiederhausern 

Capt. Bret Wagner* 

Thomas Wheeler 

2nd Lt. Zachary Allen  

Capt. James Anderson  

2nd Lt. Caleb Boone 

Capt. Anthony Brenes  

Capt. Kathleenann Brunstad 

Capt. Payten Connally 

Capt. Caleb Dann 

Capt. Spencer Figge* 

1st Lt. Emily Frahm 

Capt. Douglas Jaks 

Capt. Linda Kuster 

1st Lt. Christopher P. Lintz 

2nd Lt. Kenneth McKnight 

Capt. David Robinson (Space Force) 

Capt. Melissa Sallberg 

Maj. Zachary Schumann 

Capt. Danielle Van Lanen 

Capt. Stone Williford 

Capt. Zachary Wontrop 

Capt. Terrence Caploe (Marine Corps) 

1st Lt. Leigh Durden 

Tech. Sgt. Kyle Miller 

Capt. Ryan Register (Marine Corps)* 

Alisha Helm 

Master Sgt. Jonathan Moroz* 

Capt. Isabella Muffoletto 

Maj. William Hardy

Capt. Joshua Cramer 

Master Sgt. Benjamin Johnis 

Capt. Laura Kelly (Space Force) 

Capt. Roed Mejia 

2nd Lt. Benjamin Miller 

Staff Sgt. Lauren Rogers 

Andrew Mason 

Brian Pudlo 

Wyatt Rabe 

William Backman 

Capt. Adam Card 

Aidan Edens 

2nd Lt. Anthony Hagey 

Maj. Jeremy Hunter (Army) 

Maj. Michael Lindsay (Army) 

Henry Little 

Chandler Moore* 

Maj. Andrew Nesbitt (Army) 

Daniel Parker 

2nd Lt. Camila Quintero Hilsaca 

Timothy Steimle 

Maj. Christopher Sutphin (Army) 

Capt. Evan Threlkeld* 

2nd Lt. Seth Allen 

Capt Nathanael Clark 

2nd Lt. Camryn Deames 

Maj. Francis Gargin (Army) 

2nd Lt. Andrew Grove 

Sarah Hoops** 

Capt. Ryan Johnson 

2nd Lt. Miles Kelly 

Maj. Olin Kennedy (Army)* 

2nd Lt. Stephen Kimatian 

2nd Lt. Alexandra King 

Capt. Tyler Lucas 

Capt. Ian MacDonald 

Capt. Chad MacWilkinson 

Maj. Alexander Martinez (Army) 

2nd Lt. Callan McCormick 

2nd Lt. Elisha Palm 

2nd Lt. Andrea Phillips 

Maj Dante Reid 

2nd Lt. Connor Shaw (dual degree) 

2nd Lt. Caleb Taylor* 

2nd Lt. Sonia Venegas 

Michael Beiring 

Adam Nesmith 

Capt. Alexandria Connelly (Space Force)* 

Capt. Matthew Connelly (Space Force) 

2nd Lt. Noah Kutz 

Maj. Jose Lopez Cordell (Space Force) 

Lt. Col. Clayton Couch 

2nd Lt. Alexandra Dobranski* 

Capt. Gerald Hills Jr. (Space Force) 

2nd Lt. Samuel Medvec 

Capt. John Pasierbowicz 

Peter Redle 

Capt. Henry Schmitz 

Capt. John Stevenson 

Capt. James Winton