Syracuse University has made significant accomplishments in providing access to higher education for veterans and military family members since the days of World War I. While the overall impact of those efforts is immeasurable, they did pave the way for the establishment of the D’Aniello Institute for Veterans and Military Families and Office of Veterans and Military Affairs.

In honor of their contributions, J. Michael Haynie, vice chancellor and founder and executive director of the D’Aniello Institute for Veterans and Military Families (IVMF), established the Civilian Champions Wall of Honor in recognition of the accomplishments by those civilian supporters who have tremendously impacted the University’s goal of being the best place for veterans.

After the initial installation of the first four honorees earlier in 2023, three additional civilians were recently inducted for their profound impact upon the lives of the military-connected community across the nation.

Selene Martin

Selene Martin

Selene Martin was inducted to the Wall of Honor for her long-standing commitment to veterans and military families, particularly regarding mental health and economic mobility.

Martin, a military spouse and daughter of a U.S. Navy veteran, has served countless hours leading advisory councils in the military-connected community.

When she was recognized for her inclusion on the Wall of Honor, Martin was the corporate responsibility director for USAA, and passionately advocated for the IVMF’s programs and services dedicated to women who are veterans or military spouses.

Martin has since become an associate vice president of corporate affairs for CareSource Military & Veterans, part of a national nonprofit organization that focuses on administering Medicaid-managed care plans.

Maureen Casey

Maureen Casey

The IVMF’s success over the years is due in large part to the staff members working to make the organization’s programs and services operate smoothly. Leading those behind-the-scenes efforts is Maureen Casey, the IVMF’s chief operating officer.

Casey has more than 25 years of experience in the public and private sectors. She previously managed JPMorgan Chase & Co.’s 100,000 Veteran Jobs Mission, which impacted more than 240,000 veterans in less than three years. Casey’s commitment to veterans and military families has significantly impacted the University’s goal of being the “Best Place for Veterans.”

“I am humbled to be included on the NVRC’s Wall of Civilian Champions, and to be among such esteemed company is an honor. To say that I was completely surprised by the recognition would be an understatement,” says Casey, whose inclusion was announced in a surprise ceremony during the IVMF’s convening of its nationwide staff.

Casey says that working to position transitioning service members, veterans and their families to thrive after service is both a privilege and an obligation that civilians have.

“It is the least that we can do for those who volunteered to serve our country,” says Casey.

Phebe Novakovic ’53

Phebe Novakovic

Phebe Novakovic’s addition to the Wall of Honor comes after a lifetime of dedication to veterans and education. Her earliest days of support came from writing letters to her cousin during World War II. Her cousin, who served in the U.S. Army in the European theater, stated that her commitment to writing him regular letters was a constant source of hope and inspiration for him, and his unit, while overseas.

Novakovic graduated from the University with a B.A. in education and political science; she also received an M.A. in education from Villanova University. As a military spouse, she has worked for the Department of Defense’s Education Activity and had an impactful career in education administration.

Novakovic and her family have been extremely supportive of the University’s military and veteran-connected initiatives, including the creation of a scholarship for undergraduate student veterans and Reserve Officer Training Corps cadets in the memory of her late husband, U.S. Air Force Lt. Col. Michael Novakovic.

The IVMF will continue to acknowledge the ongoing support of those civilians working to support the University’s military and veteran initiatives, now and in the future. Building communities that are prepared to welcome veterans home is at the core of the organization’s mission, something that will require the commitment of veterans, military families and civilians alike.

“Our research indicates that more and more military connected families are returning to communities that do not understand them—their service and their sacrifice. That is why civilians like those who have this special place on the wall work tirelessly to bridge the civilian/military divide so that our military connected families are given every opportunity for success post service,” says Casey.