At the 88th annual Alumni Awards gala in April, the Trojan Family celebrated seven notable leaders who showcase the best of the Trojan spirit. Honored for their stellar achievements and exemplary service, the 2022 USC alumni awards recipients were recognized for bringing distinction to the university.
Alumni Merit Awards
This distinction celebrates accomplishments that reflect the range
and quality of a USC education.
Mike Nyeholt ’78
Chairman emeritus, board of the Swim with Mike Physically Challenged Athletes Scholarship Fund
As a USC Marshall School of Business student, Nyeholt was an NCAA All-American swimmer and a member of three national championship teams. In 1981, he was paralyzed in a motorcycle accident. Friends and teammates rallied support from the USC community and hosted a swim-a-thon fundraiser to buy Nyeholt an adapted van to continue his professional career.
The event inspired Nyeholt to establish the Physically Challenged Athletes Scholarship Fund, which aims “to change the lives of student-athletes who have experienced catastrophic injury or illness by providing scholarships, creating community and instilling hope and purpose.” He also turned Swim with Mike into an annual event that has raised more than $25 million and awarded scholarships to 256 student-athletes at 134 universities nationwide.
Professionally, Nyeholt had a successful 25-year career in institutional sales. He served as senior vice president of sales and marketing at the Capital Group Companies until he retired in 2011.
Mary Bono ’84
Former U.S. representative, 44th District; chair, Board of Directors for Community Anti-Drug Coalitions of America; chair and CEO, Mothers Against Prescription Drug Abuse; board member, SAFE Project and Verde Technologies.
Businesswoman and political leader Mary Bono served eight terms in Congress as the U.S. representative for California’s 44th (now 45th) Congressional District from 1998 to 2013. She chaired the House Energy and Commerce Committee’s Subcommittee on Commerce, Manufacturing and Trade.
Her selection as subcommittee chair for the 112th Congress made her the first Republican woman to hold a gavel on the Energy and Commerce Committee, one of the oldest standing committees in Congress. She also created and chaired the first Women’s Policy Committee in 2012. Bono served on numerous caucuses and created the House Recording Arts and Sciences Caucus.
Widely recognized as an advocate for addiction prevention, treatment and recovery, and privacy and technology issues, Bono also served on the House Armed Services Committee, the Judiciary Committee and the Small Business Committee.
Young Alumni Merit Award
This award honors the achievements of an alumnus or alumna aged 35 or younger.
Adam Goldston ’09 and Ryan Goldston ’09
Co-founders and co-CEOs, Athletic Propulsion Labs
As two-sport athletes playing basketball and football at USC, identical twins Adam and Ryan Goldston dreamed of creating a company whose products were both technologically innovative and luxurious. In 2009, they started Athletic Propulsion Labs (APL).
Today, the Goldstons hold numerous U.S. and foreign patents, including one for the Load ‘N Launch Technology in APL’s basketball shoe that is proven to make its wearers jump higher. APL’s basketball shoe holds the dubious honor of being the only shoe to be banned by the NBA for “providing an undue competitive advantage.”
In 2011, the White House recognized the Goldstons as part of Empact 100, a list of the top 100 entrepreneurs in the United States under 30. Since then, the duo has been lauded for their entrepreneurial achievements and industrial innovation by organizations such as Men’s Fitness, Men’s Health, Forbes, Los Angeles Business Journal, WWD and Goldman Sachs. Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti declared Oct. 12, 2017, Athletic Propulsion Labs LLC Day, and in 2018 the Goldstons won the Born Awards Global Fashion Prize for design and performance.
The Goldstons are the first members of an athletic brand to be inducted into the Council of Fashion Designers of America.
Alumni Service Awards
This recognition honors alumni’s volunteering efforts in service to the university.
Beth Petak-Aaron ’80
President-elect, Town & Gown of USC
An ardent supporter of USC and former K-12 educator, Petak-Aaron has held numerous leadership positions in several university-affiliated groups, from the USC Alumni Association to the USC Convocations Committee.
On the USC Alumni Association Board of Governors, she was co-chair of the Student Outreach Committee, the 2011 USC Women’s Conference and the 2016 annual USC Alumni Awards.
A past chair of the Alumnae Coordinating Council, Petak-Aaron has chaired several committees and served as the vice president of membership. She held leadership positions in the Trojan League of South Bay and the Newman Guild, the women’s group at the USC Caruso Catholic Center.
Petak-Aaron’s primary goal at USC is to raise money for student scholarships; with her husband, Tony Aaron ’80, she established USC endowed scholarship funds for Town & Gown of USC and the USC Leventhal School of Accounting.
Ramona Cappello ’81
Partner, CEO Coaching International; founder/CEO, Sun Harvest Salt LLC; founder, Corazonas Foods; Board of Councilors, USC Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences; Board of Councilors, USC Kaufman School of Dance; former member, USC Board of Trustees
Cappello hails from a long line of Trojans that includes her father, uncle, three brothers and two nieces. Cappello, valedictorian of USC’s 100th graduating class, served on the board of USC Marshall Partners and the USC Leventhal School of Accounting. From 2009 to 2015, Cappello served on the USC Alumni Association Board of Governors and was its president from 2013 to 2014.
During her presidency, the USC Alumni Association created networks to build alumni communities within similar industries across different USC schools. In 2014, Cappello was elected to the USC Board of Trustees, where she chaired the Alumni Affairs Committee. She holds local and international leadership roles with the Young Presidents Organization and serves on Mercury Insurance Group and Felbro Food Products boards.
Jules Buenabenta ’87
CEO and president, Jules and Associates Inc.; manager and majority shareholder, Vendor Direct Solutions LLC; trustee, Saint John’s Health Center Foundation and the Catholic Education Foundation
A proud USC Marshall School of Business alumnus, Buenabenta was recently appointed to serve on the school’s Board of Councilors, which provides strategic advice and counsel to the USC Marshall dean. He also advises the USC Alumni Association Board of Governors and other campus organizations.
A member of the Alumni Association board since 2015, he co-chaired the 85th annual USC Alumni Awards Committee in 2018, was the co-chair of the USC Alumni Association’s Diversity and Inclusion Committee and supports the USC Latino Alumni Association. Buenabenta is engaged in various USC Latino growth initiatives to foster diversity at the university. He serves on the USC Athletics Board of Counselors and is a member of the Trojan Athletic Fund’s Scholarship Club. His company regularly provides internships to student-athletes interested in finance.