Former Olympian Wilkinson Egwu '82CBA, '85MBA Loves His Sport and His Sport and His University
The road to the Olympics is never easy, but for Wilkinson Egwu ’82CBA, ’85MBA it began with particular difficulties. Egwu grew up in Nigeria, where he frequently had to train without the benefit of the proper facilities or equipment.
“Back home in Nigeria we didn’t have the kind of weights that we have in the United States,” he said. “Sometimes I found myself using cement blocks for weights. I didn’t know how much they weighed, but as long as they were heavy enough for me to move them, I used them in my training.”
Egwu’s determination to be the best at his sport overcame these obstacles, and by the time he came to St. John’s he was already a seasoned athlete, having represented Nigeria at a number of international championship and invitational competitions.
Once he arrived at the University, he quickly became acclimated to the level of collegiate competition. As a Freshman, he won the javelin event at his first Met College Championship and set a personal best in the Championship Division of the Penn Relays. During his Senior year in 1982, he received all-BIG EAST honors.
He recalled that although it was sometimes difficult to balance the demands of daily practices with the requirements of his studies, he never lost sight of either his academic or athletic goals.
“From the time I came to St. John’s I had two main objectives in mind,” he noted. “One was to study hard and earn my undergraduate and later my graduate degree, and the other was to do whatever was necessary to be successful at my sport. My professors and coaches were very supportive, and with their help and encouragement I was able to get where I wanted to be. I can’t say that it was easy, but it was definitely worth every second of the hard work that I had to do.”
Egwu’s efforts paid off handsomely. He earned his B.S. in Marketing in 1982 and his M.B.A. in 1985, both from St. John’s College of Business Administration, and in 1988 represented his native Nigeria in the Summer Olympics in Seoul, South Korea, where he competed in the javelin throw.
Not surprisingly, reaching the pinnacle of worldwide athletic competition is something he’ll never forget.
“The experience was unbelievable,” he said. “Making it to the Olympics is what every athlete dreams of. When you get there you see a lot of people from all over the world who excel at their sport. Even when you question whether your performance will measure up to those standards, the mere fact that you’re there with these exceptional athletes makes you realize that you’re definitely a part of something special. Even though I was representing Nigeria, I have to say that St. John’s was never far from my thoughts and never out of my heart during those wonderful days.”
This gifted double alumnus readily admits that the University will always hold an important place in his life. Currently serving as Dean of Students at Middle School 534 in Brooklyn, he continually reminds his students of the importance of personal discipline as a means to success. It is a lesson he first learned growing up in Nigeria and was subsequently flourished during his years at St. John’s.
Egwu was recently honored by the University at its Track and Field Olympic Night, a special reception at which St. John’s pays tribute to former student-athletes who have performed in one of the Track and Field events of the Olympics. He acknowledged that among the many recognitions he has received in his life, this one will always stand out because it comes from the University that means so much to him.
“I can honestly say that I would not be the person I am today without the support of the people who mentored me at St. John’s,” he remarked. “They saw something in me and gave me the opportunity to develop my talents in ways that probably wouldn’t have been possible anywhere else. Without St. John’s and the wonderful professors and coaches who were always there for me, I don’t think I’d be where I am today. I give my thanks to them, and I will always be proud to be an alumnus of such a great University.”