Now they have another reason to call him Chief O.
Longtime Garden Grove PD reserve officer John Ojeisekhoba, whose surname leaves many tongues tied in knots — hence his nickname — has been named Director of the Year in the higher education category by Campus Safety Magazine for making Biola University one of the safest colleges in the nation.
Ojeisekhoba (pronounced Ojes-ko-ba) has been Chief of Campus Safety at Biola University since 2009 and a reserve officer at the GGPD for a decade.
“I am humbled, and this is beyond me,” said Ojeisekhoba, 43, who last week was recognized by his colleagues at the GGPD, Biola and other law enforcement agencies and higher education institutions at a reception at the private Christian college.
Ojeisekhoba shared the top honor in the higher education category with John Venuti of Virginia Commonwealth University, marking the first tie in the history of the award.
“Every year the competition for this award gets harder,” said Robin Hattersley Gray of Campus Safety Magazine, one of several speakers at the Aug. 11 reception.
Chief O’s accomplishments running the 90-plus-person Campus Safety department at Biola include increasing officer retention from an average of two years to five years, implementing stronger security measures on campus including perimeter fences, adding classroom and office door locks that can be locked from the inside, improving facility access control, and creating the ability to lock down the campus during emergencies.
“This is absolutely one of the highlights of my year as president of Biola,” Barry Corey told reception attendees, who included Ojeisekhoba’s wife, Heidi, their five children and three of his brothers.
“John’s integrity is what brought him to Biola, and it’s his integrity that keeps him here,” Corey said. “He has won the confidence and respect of thousands of students, faculty and staff.”
Ojeisekhoba, a former world-class long jumper, grew up in a humble household in Nigeria. He is one of 19 children whose late father, Moses, served as police chief of the Nigerian state of Kwara.
Ojeisekhoba idolized his father and craved a better life in the U.S., but getting here wasn’t easy (click here to read a previous Behind the Badge OC story on Chief O). It took Ojeisekhoba six tries to finally be granted a visa to immigrate to the U.S. He was rejected five years in a row before finally being granted a visa.
The man responsible for bringing Ojeisekhoba to the U.S. in 1996, former Biola University track and field coach Leroy Neal, spoke emotionally at the reception about Ojeisekhoba, who considers him a second father.
“When John arrived, he had a toothbrush and a big heart,” Neal said. “Now he’s chief of the year. How did that happen?”
In short, integrity and perseverance landed Ojeisekhoba at Biola U as a graduate student in 1996, Neal said.
Ojeisekhoba got the law enforcement bug working for Biola U’s Campus Safety office.
He set goals to someday run the department.
At the reception, Ojeisekhoba gave a lot of credit to his colleagues at the GGPD.
“Ten years ago, they gave me the opportunity to become a reserve officer,” he said. “I’ve learned so much from the department and continue to learn to this day. I’m very thankful for their impeccable leadership, and for all the investments they’ve made in me.”
In addition to his full-time duties at Biola, Ojeisekhoba puts in at least 20 hours a month as a reserve Garden Grove police officer, doing everything from patrol, delivering the incarcerated to Orange County Jail, working parades and DUI checkpoints, and checking up on registered sex offenders.
Greg Balsano, vice president of university services at Biola U, said keeping students safe — as well as teachers and staff – is a huge responsibility Ojeisekhoba takes very seriously. And Chief O expertly walks the line between enforcing rules without alienating students, Balsano said.
“It’s hard to walk anywhere on campus with John because he’s always being interrupted by students he knows,” Balsano said. “Students think well of Campus Safety here.”
Added Randy Richardson, deputy chief of Campus Safety: “Chief O’s leadership traits, service and devotion to his family are apparent to anyone who spends a little time with him.
“He shows great concern for the community. His experiences have shaped him and have made him compassionate and (devoted) to serving others. We’re overjoyed to see him get this recognition he so richly deserves.”
Photographer Steven Georges contributed to this story.