Puamuh T. Ghogomu II

Puamuh T. Ghogomu II Named Waubonsee “Fabulous 40” Alumnus

Waubonsee Community College has named Puamuh T. Ghogomu II, attorney with Walgreens’ Employee Relations Department, as one of the college’s “Fabulous 40” alumni.
Sugar Grove — Although he was born in Houston, Tex., Puamuh T. Ghogomu II lived the majority of his formative years in Cameroon. After his family returned to the United States, the then 16-year-old Ghogomu found his way at Waubonsee and flourished. Now an attorney with Walgreens’ Employee Relations Department, Ghogomu attributes much of his success to the nurturing and academically challenging environment he found at Waubonsee. Waubonsee is proud to honor him as one of the college’s “Fabulous 40” alumni.

As part of the college’s yearlong 40th anniversary celebration, Waubonsee is honoring 40 alumni and students who embody the mission, vision and values of the college. These individuals represent the diversity of Waubonsee’s students and the college district, as well as the diversity of the college’s mission as a comprehensive community college.

Ghogomu’s father was an attorney for Shell Oil and a native of Cameroon. The family moved to this African nation when he was not yet school age. He spent his elementary and secondary school years in Cameroon, only visiting the United States once. His mother’s family lives in Montgomery, Ill., and when political turmoil struck the country in 1994, Ghogomu’s mother and siblings returned to the United States. Ghogomu and his father stayed behind so that he could finish his schooling. They followed in 1995, and the family settled a block and a half from his grandparents in Montgomery. It was Ghogomu’s grandparents who recommended Waubonsee as a good place to continue his education.

“It was a real adjustment being in a new country,” he said. “I definitely wasn’t prepared to go away to college. My grandparents suggested Waubonsee. There were no community colleges in Cameroon so I wasn’t familiar with the concept.”

His first day on campus, Ghogomu met Melinda James, assistant vice president of Student Development, who would take an interest in him and steer him toward involvement in student activities and athletics. He joined the African Cultural Alliance and Latinos Unidos. He became a student ambassador and student senator, and played soccer, tennis and ran cross country.

“Being new, it was a great way to meet people,” he said. “There were opportunities here that I had never had before.”

At school in Cameroon he had played soccer on sand fields and did not have many opportunities for a diverse student experience. At Waubonsee, he excelled on and off the playing fields. He was named an NJCAA Academic All-American and also won Waubonsee’s top athletic award, the Vermilion and Gold Award.

“I had a lot of doors open for me,” he said. “You work hard and hope that opportunities would open up to you. You have to earn it, but I’ve had a lot of support. It’s never a one-person journey.”

Academically, Ghogomu graduated with honors, earning an Associate in Science degree. He focused on science courses with the goal of becoming a doctor.

“Living in Africa there aren’t a lot of doctors or technical people,” he said. “My dad discouraged me from going into law saying there were too many lawyers already.”

However, Ghogomu eventually did focus on law. After transferring to University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, he completed his bachelor’s degree in biology, but later earned a master’s degree in Human Resources and Industrial Relations from the U of I Institute of Labor and Industrial Relations and his J.D., cum laude, from the U of I College of Law. He also landed a prestigious internship with Walgreens in their employee relations department.

“I’m very proud of where I am today,” he said. “Waubonsee academically prepared me to go to a four-year university. Waubonsee really set me up to succeed. It put me on the path I’m on today. At the end of the day, it all started at Waubonsee.”

After earning his law degree, Ghogomu was hired by Littler Mendelson, which is the nation’s largest employment and labor law firm. He now works in a downtown Chicago skyscraper and lives in Chicago’s Hyde Park.

“I’ve definitely accomplished more than I thought possible,” he said. “I’ve been given a lot of responsibility. It’s rewarding to take what I’ve learned and apply it.”

Ghogomu appreciates the foundation he gained at Waubonsee. A strong supporter of community colleges in general, his wife, Michele, teaches at Prairie State College, and is a community college graduate as well.

"It offers something for everybody,” he said of community colleges. “I had adults in my classes and students just out of high school. Coming from Africa, Waubonsee gave me so many opportunities. It just really reflects the diversity of opportunities that you can have at a community college.”