Award-winning singer, plane crash survivor to speak on resilience at WMU

Contact: Erin Flynn
A profile photo of Kechi Okwuchi.


KALAMAZOO, Mich.—Resilience is essential to success in life. Some people have larger obstacles to overcome than others, but few have stories like Kechi Okwuchi's.

The Nigerian-born plane crash survivor will visit Western Michigan University to deliver the fifth annual Resilience Factor lecture. The event is scheduled for 6 p.m. Monday, Sept. 23, in Dalton Recital Hall. It is free and open to the public.

Inspiring by Example

Born in Nigeria, Okwuchi was a teenager when she was involved in a horrific plane crash. Of the 109 people aboard, only two survived. Sustained by her faith, family, and love of music, she has endured more than 100 reconstructive surgeries while completing high school and earning a master's degree.

"It's so hard to see beyond adversity when you're surrounded by it," says Okwuchi. "I would tell anyone going through it to trust that there is life after adversity. There is live after trauma and hardship."

Okwuchi's passion to inspire and advocate for other burn survivors helped her to find her voice, singing at church, fundraisers and galas. She's since become a traveling artist and motivational speaker, advocating for a number of burn survivor organizations.

"Her physical, mental and emotional resilience is unimaginable. She's undergone so many years of constant surgery and in addition to that she's been a successful singer and successful student," says Mark Delorey, WMU Foundation Scholars advisor, adding that judges on "America's Got Talent," where she was a finalist, called her a "champion of life."

In addition to sharing her inspirational story, Okwuchi will perform some songs during her lecture. A group of young survivors from Great Lakes Burn Camp will also be in attendance, honored as special guests for the night.

Resilience Factor

A woman stands at a microphone and sings, her hands outstretched.

Okwuchi travels the world singing and sharing her story of resilience.

"I hope people who come to the lecture gain an increased awareness and appropriate value of the personal quality of resilience," Delorey says. "To understand and appreciate the value of personal resilience and to recognize the students we have on campus who also exemplify resilience in their lives and have overcome tremendous things to be here as successful students."

The lecture series began the same year the Foundation Scholars program started. The merit-based program awards $60,000 scholarships to students who are enrolled in or eligible for the Federal Free or Reduced Lunch program; are wards of the state, orphans or in foster care; are homeless; or are undocumented.

"These are truly remarkable students who have overcome significant challenges and are excelling," says Delorey.

Along with the Foundation Scholars program, the event is being co-sponsored by the Seita Scholars program, Office of the President, Division of Student Affairs, Lee Honors College, College of Arts and Sciences, Office of Diversity and Inclusion, and Center for Academic Success Programs.

For more WMU news, arts and events, visit WMU News online.