Ugorji Okechukwu Ugorji is an American-educated, award-winning publisher, author, public administrator and scholar-activist who now resides both in Nigeria and the US. He is the first of the seven children of His Royal Highness Eze Stephen Nwabueze Ugorji and Ugoeze Anastatsia Ngozi Ugorji. He has three sisters and three brothers.
He attended Army Children’s School, Port Harcourt, and Ekulu Primary School, Enugu. As a result of his academic excellence, he skipped the final (6th) year of elementary school at Ekulu Primary School and went straight to high school, enrolling first at Ife Secondary School, Mbaise. He transferred from Ife to Holy Ghost College, Owerri in 1978.
Ugorji is married to Uchenna Kate Ugorji (nee Iroegbu). The couple has four sons: Nnamdi, Ugonna, Uzonna, and Uchenna. Formerly long-time residents of Trenton, New Jersey, the family has dual residency in Willingboro, New Jersey, and Lorji, Imo State, Nigeria. A practicing Catholic, he is a member of the Knights of Columbus of the Catholic Church.
Ugorji has written many books:
- I saw the sky fall (Sungai Books, 2014)
- Sunrise daughters: A global portrait of Igbo women (Sungai Books, 2009)
- Tall Drums: Portraits of Nigerians who are changing America (Sungai Books, 2002)
- The Crow Bride and other Torti tales (Sungai Books, 1997)
- From the belly of the Gods: An African mythology (Sungai Books, 1993)
- The Adventures of Torti: Tales from West Africa (Africa World Press, 1991)
- 1 Education
- 2 Career
- 3 Sungai Books
- 4 Titles
- 5 References
College education and professional development:
- 1986 – Bachelor of Arts (Psychology), The College of New Jersey
- 1987 – Bachelor of Science (Biology), The College of New Jersey
- 1989 – Master of Arts, Counseling and Personnel Management, The College of New Jersey
- 1989 – Graduate Internship, Career Services, Princeton University, Princeton, New Jersey
- 1990 – Certified Public Manager studies, Rutgers University and New Jersey HRDI
- 1994 – Doctor of Educational Administration, Rutgers University, New Brunswick, New Jersey
Honors and awards:
- Western Union Community Service Award
- Merit/Service Award, World Igbo Congress, Inc.
- Alumni Achievement Award, The College of New Jersey
- Distinguished Services Award, Trenton Board of Education
- Model Citizen of New Jersey, a proclamation from Governor Florio of New Jersey
- Minority Academic Careers Fellowship, Rutgers University
- Ralph Bunche Fellow, Amnesty International-USA
- First Prize, National Association for Black Studies’ Creative Writing Contest
- Outstanding Young Men of America
- Who’s Who Among Students of American Universities and Colleges
Ugorji’s community organizing efforts began as the Vice President and Chief Speaker of the Literary and Debating Society of Holy Ghost College, Owerri. With him as the school’s lead debater, his team won all of its televised debating math among high schools in the state. He graduated from Holy Ghost College in 1980 at the age of 15.
Ugorji arrived at Trenton State college (now The College of New Jersey) in 1981 before his 17th birthday. He became an active member of the college community, serving in the following capacities: President of the International Students Association, Editor-In-Chief of Utimme Umana magazine, Member of Black Students Union, Founder of the Pan-African Student Society, Founder of the Minority Students Coalition, Vice President of the Student Government Association, Vice President of Blue Key Honor Society, and Chairman of the Campus Life Board (the highest student body which comprised of heads of major student organizations). In 1983, Ugorji was elected Homecoming King of Trenton State College, becoming the first Black to be so elected in the over 100-years history of the institution.
The issues and challenges addressed by the activism of Ugorji in college included Divestment of US companies from Apartheid economy of South Africa; the campaign to free Nelson Mandela and others; the recruitment and retention of minority students to graduation; the recruitment, hiring and promotion of Black faculty and administrators at the college; the funding of cultural activities; and fundraising in aid of the famine in Ethiopia.
Anti death-penalty activism
In 1988, while still a graduate student at The College of New Jersey, Ugorji was selected as one of the first set of five Ralph Bunche Fellows by Amnesty International-USA. During this fellowship he participated in the campaign to abolish the death penalty and the effort to release political prisoners in South Africa and other countries.
After his departure from The College of New Jersey, Ugorji remained connected to the college as a member and President of the Black Alumni Alliance (BAA). The BAA raised funds for scholarships and provided mentoring and technical guidance for students and student groups.
He also helped organize the Rutgers University African American Alumni Association. And he has remained an active participant in the Rutgers University Graduate School of Education Alumni activities and fundraising.
n 1989, Ugorji joined the New Jersey State Government as a Governor’s Fellow in Public Administration. He started his career in public administration with employment at the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection.
He has since served as training and development specialist, programs coordinator, labor relations manager, EEO officer, administrative analyst, management improvement specialist, and a Special Assistant to the New Jersey Secretary of State, Dr. DeForest Soaries, Jr. His scholarly articles in such journals as Pubic Administration Review (PAR) have contributed to the body of knowledge in the field.
American Society for Public Administration
In 1990, Ugorji joined the American Society for Pubic Administration (ASPA). He was elected to the Executive Council and became the Vice President for the Membership Development of the New Jersey chapter of ASPA. In that capacity, he worked to quadruple the number of Black and Latino members of the chapter.
Trenton Board of Education
Mayor Douglas Palmer of the City of Trenton appointed Ugorji to the Trenton Board of Education in 1998. He served as the Chairman of the Board’s Curriculum Committee, Member of the Personal Committee, and Lead Board Member in the Superintendent Search Committee that hired Mr. James Lyttle as superintendent in 1999.
In 2001, Ugorji joined the Granville Charter High School of Trenton as a member of its Board of Trustees. He served as the Chairman of the Finance and Budget Committee of the school and attended conferences on behalf of Granville in support of the charter schools concept.
New Jersey Black Issues Convention
Ugorji registered the African Writers Endowment as a member association of the New Jersey Black Issues Convention (NJBIC) in 2001. The NJBIC is an amalgam of over 40 top civil rights and community service organizations in the state of New Jersey. He subsequently became a member of the Board of Directors of NJBIC.
Willingboro Zoning Board of Adjustments In 2014 Ugorji was appointed to the Zoning Board of the township by the Mayor and Township Council. The Zoning Board of Adjustment is an independent, quasi-judicial body that grants variances and hears appeals of rulings by the Zoning Officer. The Board also interprets the township’s Master Plan and Zoning Ordinance. Political Activism A veteran of presidential, gubernatorial and mayoral election campaigns for the Democratic Party in the United States of America, Ugorji has served as a volunteer in Obama for America (OFA). He had also volunteered for the Bill Clinton campaigns for president, as well as for the Howard Dean and Jesse Jackson presidential campaigns. He had also volunteered for the campaign of the first woman governor for the State of New Jersey, Governor Christie Whitman of New Jersey.
In the 2015 presidential campaign and elections in Nigeria, Ugorji Okechukwu Ugorji served as a consultant to and the Director General of the Chekwas Okorie Presidential Campaign Organization. He took no salary or remuneration for his services.
Recognized as a leading authority on the Nigerian Diaspora, Ugorji has served as a consultant to several governments in Nigeria on efforts to engage the Nigerian Diaspora in national development. Ambassador Author Mbanefo of Nigeria once referred to Ugorji as Nigeria’s unofficial ambassador to the U.S. He said this in recognition of Ugorji’s service to the Nigerian community. As a leader in the Nigerians in Diaspora Organization (NIDO) and later as Chairman of the Delaware Valley chapter of the Nigerian Peoples Forum-USA, he participated in the initiation and organizing of what is now known as the Nigerian Diaspora Day in Nigeria. For the 2006 gathering of Diaspora Day, the Nigerian Presidency commissioned him to write, narrate and produce a video documentary on Nigerian residing and working abroad, which was viewed by over 1,000 people (including President Olusegun Obasanjo) at a gathering in Abuja.
Ugorji has served as a Board Member of the World Igbo Congress (WIC), being among other things, the premier Chairman of the Education and Youth Development Committee of the WIC. He had also served as President of two different affiliates of WIC: Igbo Bu Igbo of Central New Jersey, and Nzuko Ndigbo of South Jersey.
At the age of 32, Ugorji O Ugorji became the first National Chairman of the American Federation of Mbaise Associations (AFOMA) in 1996. AFOMA was the first umbrella organization of over 15 Mbaise groups in the United States. The organization has since awarded over Eight Million Naira worth of scholarships to students at the secondary and university levels in Nigeria.
In 2014, Ugorji became one of the founding members of Alaigbo Development Foundation (ADF). Headquartered in Nigeria, the ADF seeks to be a catalyst for Igbo renaissance. And in 2015, he founded Organizing for Opportunities (O.F.O.), a non-profit organization that provides job training, leadership development and micro-financing for Nigerian youth. He is also a founding member of the Chery Hill branch of Peoples Club of Nigeria International.
African Writers Endowment
As the Executive Director of the New Jersey based African Writers Endowment, Inc. (AWE) since 2000, Ugorji has raised funds to subsidize the publication of over 25 books by writers in North America and Africa. The AWE has brought attention to the works of African writers and provided guidance to over 100 new and established writers in the development of their craft.
Through its annual Quintessence Awards, the AWE has also lent its formidable and highly respected voice in recognition of and support for the efforts by several African and African American leaders and intellectuals to deepen democratic traditions and expand knowledge in all fields of human endeavor. Out of respect for these activities, Sungai/AWE’s events have been attended by an impressive roster of intellectual giants and leaders as honorees and/or guests, including Professors Chinua Achebe, Wole Soyinka, Ngugi wa-Thiongo, Toyin Faloa, Molefi Kete Asante, Chibuike Amaechi of Rivers State, Chief Gani Fawehinmi, Barrister Osita Agbakoba, Senate President Ken Nnamani, New Jersey Speaker Sheila Oliver, U.S. Congressman Donald Payne, U.S. Congresswoman Bonnie Watson Coleman, New Jersey Senator Shirley Turner, New Jersey Secretary of State Lonna Hooks, New Jersey Secretary of State Deforest Soaries, Ambassador Joe Keshi of Nigeria, Ambassador Barbara Masekela of South Africa, and Publisher Kasahun Checole of Eritrea, to mention a few.
In 1993, Ugorji established Sungai Books, which has edited and/or published over 125 books. An award winning writer himself, he has authored seven books, with several others in various stages of completion. His books and those of other authors published under the Sungai Books imprint are used in schools in Africa, North America and the Caribbean.
Ugorji holds two Igbo traditional titles: Odoziobodo Mbaise, conferred on him by HRH Eze Leo Nnaji in 1999; and Ide Mmuta conferred on him by HRH Eze S. N. Ugorji in 2014.