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ASU director inducted into Arizona Veterans Hall of Fame Society

Wanda Wright was first African American woman to attain rank of colonel in Arizona National Guard


Portrait of Wanda Wright in front of an American flag and an Arizona state flag.

Retired Col. Wanda Wright, director of Arizona State University’s Office for Veteran and Military Academic Engagement. Photo by Charlie Leight/ASU

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January 26, 2024

Retired Col. Wanda Wright, director of Arizona State University’s Office for Veteran and Military Academic Engagement (OVMAE), has been inducted into the Arizona Veterans Hall of Fame Society (AVHOFS) for her purposeful contributions to the state’s veteran community.

“It’s such an honor to know that the veteran community thinks so highly of me,” said Wright, who is also a Sun Devil alumna. “There are so many legends in the veteran community that have been inducted — I am humbled to be among this group.”

AVHOFS was established in 2007 with the intent of recognizing the talents, efforts and achievements of veterans outside of their military service. Its vision “is to be recognized as a leading advocate for Arizona veterans, military personnel, their families and their survivors.”

"As a colleague and thought partner of (retired) Col. Wanda Wright, I am continually inspired by her embodiment of true servant leadership,” said Manuel Aviles-Santagio, vice dean for ASU’s College of Integrative Sciences and Arts (CISA). “Her induction into the Arizona Veterans Hall of Fame is a well-deserved recognition of her ability to innovate and enhance the lives of veterans through her compassionate and forward-thinking initiatives. We are fortunate in CISA to witness her transformative leadership in real time as she brings her exceptional skills and dedication to the Office for Veteran and Military Academic Engagement."

Patricia Little-Upah, the president of AVHOFS, shared similar sentiments about Wright, whose extensive military service includes 21 years in the Arizona National Guard, where she was the first African American woman to attain the rank of colonel.

“Individuals are inducted into the Arizona Veterans Hall of Fame to recognize their many contributions to our veterans, military and their communities after they leave the military, and there is no finer example of that than Wanda Wright, inducted in 2023,” she said. “Above and beyond her job, she spent countless hours of her time both locally and nationally to ensure that veterans received the recognition, care and assistance they needed. The Arizona Veterans Hall of Fame Society is made up of a small prestigious group of veterans like Wanda who continue to give back to this nation.”

Aside from teaching, designing coursework, coordinating veteran-focused initiatives, conducting research and advocating for sustainability in CISA, Wright looks forward to leveraging this honor by supporting AVHOFS initiatives that boost community work with Arizona veterans — an endeavor that aligns with Wright’s current and past work.

For eight years, she worked with more than 500,000 Arizona veterans as the director of the Arizona Department of Veterans’ Services (ADVS) under former Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey.

“My team at ADVS made miracles happen, and I am so pleased that the society not only valued my work here but also the work of the 800 employees at ADVS,” said Wright, who also chairs the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs Advisory Committee on Women Veterans.

Wright's service to veterans across Arizona also includes the building of veteran homes in Flagstaff and Yuma, veteran cemeteries in Camp Navajo and Marana, and the expansion of another in Sierra Vista. She also co-founded the Be Connected program, focused on reducing suicide in the veteran community. Wright coordinated Women Veteran Expo events statewide and designed veteran tool kits to assist job seekers, among various other projects.

“True service knows no bounds. It is the dedication, resilience and unwavering commitment of our military members, even beyond their service to our nation, that continues to shape and uplift our country,” Wright said. “This is what the Arizona Veteran Hall of Fame is all about."

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