Michael Aho built a career negotiating for positive change. As a political officer with the U.S. Department of State, he helped broker a deal that removed chemical weapons from Syria in 2013. As an ECU alumnus, he continues to lend his time and financial support to push the university toward a brighter future. Aho generously contributes to ECU his effort and talent as a member of the Board of Visitors, the Alumni Association Board and the Fan Engagement Council For Athletics. He also shared sage advice as the School of Communication commencement speaker for December graduates in 2016. And as a loyal fan at football games, he travels from his home in Virginia with his partner, Joe Esparza, to cheer for his alma mater. But mainly, Aho gives back by being a constant advocate for current students. "I tell other donors all the time that the only reason we do any of this stuff is for the students," he said. "It's to help the students that are there now and position them for whatever they are trying to do." He and Esparza recently made a planned gift that will create three scholarships: one for student-athletes; one for students majoring in communication or security studies; and one for students working in the university's LGBT Resource Office or interested in LGBT issues. "We both have charity built into us," Esparza said.
team," Aho said. Esparza accepts the distinction willingly. He attended Columbia University, yet only ECU bumper stickers adorn his car. When he visits campus with Aho, the whole town feels like an extended family, he said. They both hope their gift shows other donors that any commitment helps strengthen the university. "It takes everyone doing their part," Aho said, to which Esparza added, "No amount is too small." To learn more about making a planned gift to ECU, visit www.ecu.edu/give.