ServiceMaster Brands announced that Ekene Okonkwoaguolu won the company’s SMB Scholarship Endowment at Duke’s Fuqua School of Business.

To receive this scholarship, the recipient has to initially be receiving a merit scholarship and is only awarded the SMB scholarship through the recommendation of the Chair of the Health Sector Management Certificate program.  The recipient is awarded the scholarship through the entirety of the two-year program.

Okonkwoaguolu is a first-year Fuqua student with a certificate in health sector management. He grew up in California before moving to New York to follow his mom’s new career opportunity.  After graduating from high school in New York, Okonkwoaguolu attended Dartmouth College in New Hampshire, graduating with a degree in economics. After graduation, he worked at Deutsche Bank as an analyst.

During the start of what should have been the best time of his life, Okonkwoaguolu was diagnosed with a genetic condition called Alport syndrome. The condition is characterized by the progressive loss of kidney function. There is currently no specific treatment for Alport Syndrome, only treating the symptoms of this condition to hopefully slow down the progression of kidney disease.

Regrettably, his condition worsened, and his treatment plan progressed to requiring dialysis on a regular basis. To accommodate the 12 hours a week needed for treatment, Okonkwoaguolu started his own business, Startup Ventures. This was a venture capital firm that focused on helping small businesses get a start.

His experience with the healthcare system led him to enroll at Fuqua. In the future, Okonkwoaguolu  said he hopes to one day be able to do for others what the SMB Scholarship Endowment has done for him: be given the opportunity to gain skills that will allow him to make an impact in society.