Onondaga Community College annually recognizes distinguished graduates by naming them “Alumni Faces” for their accomplishments and contributions to the community. The 2017 class will be honored during a ceremony November 1 at 5:30 p.m. in the Recital Hall which is located in the Academic II building. One of the graduates we will honor that night is Marthe Ngwashi.
Marthe Ngwashi is living the American dream. She’s the child of African immigrants, has her own law firm in Buffalo and is a proud mother who balanced career and life challenges so she could give her son the stability and support he needed. “My son is the best thing that ever happened to me. I am so proud of the man he has become.”
Marthe (pronounced MART) Ngwashi (pronounced n-GWASH-shee) came to Onondaga Community College from Syracuse’s Nottingham High School. Life circumstances made OCC the obvious choice. She had a son, Bupe (pronounced boo-PAY) whom she wanted to raise with the help of her family.
Ngwashi came to OCC twice but her first attempt at being a college student lasted only one year. Despite her short stay she learned invaluable lessons. Ngwashi engaged in a medical internship which helped her realize she didn’t want a career in a health field. She also was one of the first hires at the Content Tutoring Center which was brand new at the time. “My time working there provided a professional foundation for future success. I learned a great deal about management, hiring, business organization and budget strategy that would carry over into my career.”
Despite the lessons learned Ngwashi took time off from college. Eventually her parents convinced her to return to campus by stressing the importance of education. “This time I was ready to be a student. I stayed after class to get to know my professors, I was in EOP (Educational Opportunity Program) and I got help at the Tutoring Center. My counselors and the faculty saw something in me I didn’t see. They really made a difference.” Ngwashi would earn her Business Management degree from OCC in 2003 and continue on to SUNY Empire State College where she received a bachelor’s in Business, Management and Economics.
In 2007 Ngwashi was working for the State Attorney General’s Office when her career took an unexpected turn. Ngwashi was serving as a Intergovernmental Affairs Specialist, communicating with people in the district and bringing their concerns to deputy attorney generals for their review. Through her work she realized how much she enjoyed the law. Her co-workers urged her to consider it as a career path. “The attorneys I was working with encouraged me to go to law school. It hadn’t crossed my mind to make the transition, but the more I thought about it the more I liked it.”
Ngwashi followed her dream, attending Widener University School of Law in Harrisburg, PA. She reentered college at the same time her son was starting college. They found themselves working on college applications and financial documents at the same time.
After graduating Ngwashi returned to Syracuse and worked as an Onondaga County Deputy County Attorney. “I really enjoyed my time there. I found a constant resource of attorneys from all walks of life to talk to and gain knowledge from whether it was in government, business, criminal or private work they had all done at one time or another.”
In 2016 Ngwashi made the decision to go out on her own. She moved to Buffalo and launched a law firm with an emphasis in municipal and government law. Ngwashi is proud of what she’s accomplished and knows she couldn’t have made it without the support of those closest to her. “I’m fortunate to have such a wonderful son and a loving family. I could not have done this without my parents and siblings.”