Sharing Can Be a Blessing

Ezra Teshome
Ezra Teshome, a Capitol Hill insurance agent and SU alumnus, enjoys the neighborhood near his office.

His business card carries the motto "Service above Self," which says a lot about Ezra Teshome's life philosophy. This State Farm insurance agent and Seattle University alumnus—class of 1976—finds ways to give 25 cents of every dollar he earns to global and local communities.

"If you're sincere, if people see you're out there to help others, they'll trust that and help you." - Ezra Teshome, '76

"That sharing feels like a blessing," says Teshome, a native of Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, where he attended Nativity Boys School run by Jesuits.

In his sunny State Farm office at the corner of 13th and East Pine, Teshome is surrounded by photos, awards and memorabilia from his efforts to support the Ethiopian community here and abroad. He's especially known for his work in Ethiopia to eradicate polio, develop low-income housing, construct a library, create a computer center and provide clean water to several villages in Ethiopia and Uganda.

Teshome and his wife Yobi, a 1983 graduate of the College of Nursing, became U.S. citizens and chose Seattle as home. Soon he was president of the University District Rotary Club and convinced Rotarians to help him start Rotary Village in Addis Ababa to house Ethiopian refugees. Teshome led Rotarians in an ambitious program to eradicate polio in rural Ethiopia. They made a doorto-door campaign to encourage vaccination. No new cases of polio have been recorded in Ethiopia for more than three years.

There's a big earthenware jug under Teshome's front office window, a reminder of the impact he had when water and sanitation facilities were added to more than 40 villages in rural Ethiopia. Rotarians and World Vision were involved in the effort.

"The results make me want to do more," says Teshome. "So many children might have died or suffered from water-borne illness had we not filtered clean water into reservoir tanks."

Here in Seattle, he mentors SU students at the Albers School of Business and Economics. He also chaired a foundation that raised funds to build St. Gebriel's, Seattle's first orthodox Ethiopian church, which celebrated its 10th anniversary this year.

Teshome won the 2010 World Citizen Award from the World Affairs Council and was named a Global Health Hero by TIME Magazine. Front and center on his office desk, however, is the Community Service Award he received from the university at the 2011 Alumni Awards celebration. Teshome reflects on his 30-plus years with State Farm as well as his SU education.

"It's the integrity of State Farm, the fact that we pay what we owe and make sure the customer's interests are covered ahead of our own. Fulfilling those promises are the most satisfying for me," he says. "If you're sincere, if people see you're out there to help others, they'll trust that and help you. That's something SU taught me and I continue to give back and count my blessings."

Winter Calendar Title


Red Arrow_png International Photo Competition 2013 Exhibit
Kinsey Gallery, Admissions Bldg.
Through May 24, 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., Mon.–Fri.

Red Arrow_png Lunchtime Scholar Series
Hunthausen Hall, ROOM 100
May 24, 12:15 to 1:30 p.m.


Red Arrow_png Student Chamber Music Spring Concert
Pigott Auditorium
June 6, 7:30 to 9:30 p.m.

Red Arrow_png Day of Learning: An On-campus Experience for Older Adults
Pigott Building
June 19, 8:45 a.m. to 1 p.m.

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