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'He Helped Square Your Shoulders'

Courtesy Iquo Okon

ROLE MODEL: Okon, here with his only nephew, Jiano Okon Wilson Briggs, mentored other black engineering students.

Okokon Okon III, ’89, MS ’91, an engineer and entrepreneur who friends say was a mentor to many young African-American students at Stanford, was murdered on March 29 in Atlanta. He was 36.

Okon’s body was found near a parking garage at the office where he was doing consulting work for Elemental Interactive, a software firm. Atlanta police said he was beaten to death, but no motive was evident.

Okon’s death spurred a torrent of remembrances and an outpouring of anger, grief and shock, especially from a tightly knit group of African-American Stanford alumni who knew him. Maurice Rabb, ’90, ms ’93, says Okon was “the spiritual center” of a group of black men at Stanford in the late ’80s who came to be known as the “Bruhs.” Loquacious, whip-smart and energetic, Okon was “living at another level,” says Rabb, who roomed with Okon at Ujumaa and remained a close friend. Full of ideas and possessing a boundless curiosity, Okon taught himself French and Portuguese, was a connoisseur of food and music and had “broad palates,” according to Rabb. “He was not an accidental person.”

A software engineer who co-founded two companies, Okon was a descendant of Nigerian chiefs. Brian Bryant, ’88, says he was an inspiration to young black men. “He helped you square your shoulders,” and even had t-shirts printed with the words “Positive Black Male.”

Joel Martin, ’91, recalled Okon as an important figure on campus for black engineers in particular. “He showed that it could be done.”

Dozens of Stanford alumni from all over the country attended the funeral in Atlanta, says Martin, including some “who had disappeared from the face of the earth.”

“He was the last person you would expect to die from a violent death,” says Rabb. “He connected with people, and the people he touched never forgot him.”

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