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Alumnus Creates Three Scholarships, Plus One Honorary Pirate

Alumnus Creates Three Scholarships, Plus One Honorary Pirate
Michael Aho pictured with his late father Curt Aho and his mother Sarah.

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.

Joe Esparza and Michael Aho visit ECU.
"And we've been able to work with each other to make it more meaningful." He said they often ask themselves, "What can we do?" Stroking a check is only the start. Aho graduated from ECU in 2002 with a degree in public relations. While at ECU, he was involved with the Marching Pirates and student government. He went on to earn his master's degree in peace operations policy from George Mason University. Then it was off to Washington to work for the executive branch of the U.S. government and later for the U.S. Mission to the United Nations in New York. He currently works for the government in a management analysis role. Throughout his career, Aho stayed connected to ECU. He helped create the School of Communication alumni group. He served as the "Voice of the Marching Pirates" for nine football seasons (2001-08, and 2014). While living in New York, he hosted a dinner for ECU students visiting the city as part of Forever Pirates, the alumni association student membership program. In 2015, he was awarded a 40 Under 40 Leadership Award as well as the Outstanding Alumni Award. And of course, there was the matter of turning Esparza into a Pirate. "I dragged him along to so many football games and he became a Pirate by affiliation. He's adopted ECU as his home

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.


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