Afam Onyema

Afam Onyema was born in Chicago, Illinois in 1979. He graduated cum laude from Harvard University with a degree in psychology and played on the 1997 Ivy League Championship-winning football team.

After graduation, Afam worked for two years in the Chicago office of Hill & Knowlton, Inc., an elite global public relations firm, and then spent one year working in the marketing department of Mayer Brown LLP, a top-ten international law firm and the largest law office in Chicago.

Afam entered Stanford Law School in September 2004. During his time at Stanford, he served as Vice President of the Black Law Students' Association, a two-time public interest fellow, and a mentor in the school's Public Interest Mentor Program. In January 2006, Afam traveled to Ghana as part of the law school's International Community Law Clinic. During his summers in law school, Afam worked for the Los Angeles offices of Paul Hastings LLP and Kirkland & Ellis LLP, where he was a 2006 Minority Fellowship recipient.

While in law school, Afam also directed the efforts of The GEANCO Foundation, his family's nonprofit organization. GEANCO’s mission is to save and transform lives in Nigeria. After graduating from Stanford Law School in May 2007, Afam declined his law firm offers in order to work full-time as GEANCO's Chief Operating Officer.

Afam was named to the New Leader Council’s (NLC) “40 Under 40” national list of Emerging Leaders in 2009. NLC seeks out and trains the top tier of emerging young leaders and "political entrepreneurs." The '09 list included a US congressman, the state treasurer of Illinois, and a US assistant defense secretary.

In 2012, Afam was named to NBC News’ theGrio.com’s list of “100 People Making History Today”, and Mother Nature News selected him as a member of the Innovation Generation: 30 fresh thinkers helping humanity adapt to what’s next.

Afam has been profiled and/or interviewed by National Public Radio (WBEZ 91.5 Chicago), US News & World Report, Forbes.com, Newsweek, American Lawyer (AmLaw.com), NBC News, Daily Journal, AOL/Patch.com, Blackgivesback.com, Young Lawyer Magazine, JET Magazine, Harvard Magazine, Stanford Magazine and Stanford Lawyer.

Afam has presented GEANCO’s work at Harvard Law School, Stanford University’s Center for African Studies, Stanford Law School, UCLA Graduate School of Business, Stanford’s Graduate School of Business and the California Institute of Technology (Caltech).

For more information, please visit geanco.org.

Entries by Afam Onyema

How is the incredible accomplished? How are our most audacious dreams realized? By staying on the right path, no matter how difficult, no matter how long or how exhausting the journey may be.

Rise & Walk: New Hips, New Knees, New Hope

I graduated from Harvard College and Stanford Law School, and I declined several lucrative corporate law offers in order to dedicate myself full-time to saving and transforming lives in Africa. Now I lead The GEANCO Foundation, which organizes medical missions and maternal and infant health programs in Africa. GEANCO is also partnering with Stanford Hospital to build a world-class medical facility in Nigeria. On October 24, our team of twenty skilled and selfless medical professionals will travel to Nigeria to give new hips and knees to poor patients and train local surgeons on the latest orthopedic techniques. These missions are crazy difficult to pull off. Qualified medical professionals from… Read more.

Take Your First Step

One of my favorite figures from history is President Theodore Roosevelt. He lived an amazing life. He accomplished so many big things – he built the Panama Canal, won a Nobel Peace Prize, started America’s national parks system. But he received a great deal of criticism during his lifetime, exactly because he dared to do big things. After his presidency, he gave a speech in response to all of those who had been hollering and sniping at him through the years. In it, he said that “it is not the critic who counts. The credit belongs to the one who… Read more.