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Education Can Change the World

Gloria and Ike Ononye with son Aloysius
Ike and Gloria Ononye with their son Aloysius “Oli” Ononye, BS’13, MBA’13, at Commencement 2013

​Parents Gloria and Ike Ononye contribute to the accessibility of Washington University


Drs. Gloria and Ike Ononye like to point out that they received a Washington University education alongside their son, Oli, BSCE ’13, MBA ’13.

“Becoming involved in your child’s education can be transformational,” says Ike, a chemist who works in research and development for Procter & Gamble’s growing operations in Nigeria.  Gloria Ononye teaches science at an inner-city high school in Cincinnati, Ohio, where the couple resides.

During their son’s time at the university, the Ononyes served on the Parents Council, which provides a direct avenue for two-way communication between the university administration and parents of undergraduates.  Council members also volunteer, host events, and help facilitate career connections for Washington University students.

“We learned so much about the university from our participation, in addition to the fact that Oli felt at home there and was having a great experience,” Gloria says. “We began to understand that the university educates students by helping them develop the leadership skills to discover who they are and who they can become.”

Oli thrived at Washington University.  He served as a residential life adviser, president of the National Society of Black Engineers, and a member of the Black Leaders Society.  He received the 2012 Nelson Mandela Award, which acknowledges an undergraduate student leader who creates a shared vision, elicits the strengths of others, perseveres in the face of adversity, and inspires a grander vision.

Oli attended Washington University with the help of a scholarship, and his parents wanted to begin reciprocating early on—during Oli’s freshman year.   They’ve made annual scholarship gifts to the university ever since, sponsoring the Ononye Family Scholarship in the School of Engineering & Applied Science “because education is the key to individual and societal success,” Gloria says.

“I was impressed by the student diversity at the university and how well Oli got along,” adds Ike. “When you’ve gone through something good, why wouldn’t you want to help provide the same opportunity for others?”

Changing the world

Gloria and Ike, who grew up in Nigeria, say they plan to continue supporting Washington University because they believe that education can change the world.

“For me personally, education was a way out of poverty,” says Gloria, who holds a doctorate in early childhood and adolescent development.  For Ike, it was a way of life.  “My father, a math teacher, believed that education was the single most important investment he could make,” Ike says, “and although he didn’t have much, he made sure all eight of his children were educated.”

Likewise, the Ononyes have ensured the education of their own four children, now young adults.  They report that Oli is employed at Procter & Gamble, where he is an engineer project leader who travels to international locations to work with teams in the fabric and homecare industries.

“It took me years to get where he is now,” Ike submits.  “Even though Oli has graduated, we hope to visit Washington University in the future.  It has brought out the best in us all.”

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