Amos Maru: Motivated by Gratitude


School of Interior Architecture & Design B.F.A. alumnus Amos Maru celebrates his graduation. Photo courtesy of Amos Maru.

For every person who chooses to enlist in the military, their reasoning is not only personal, but deep, as they know it is a decision that will change their life forever. Amos Maru’s decision was not based on how it would benefit himself, but instead was based entirely on gratefulness. 

“It was an opportunity for me to serve the country that gave so much to me,” said Maru, an alumnus of the Academy of Art University’s School of Interior Architecture & Design.

Maru gave four years of his life to protect a country he traveled to for the first time in 2008 at 22 years old. As Maru saw it, serving was simply reciprocity for a country that provided him an education, a family and a life filled with opportunity. None of this would have been possible, however if it weren’t for Maru’s hard work and, above all, courage.  

Maru’s story starts 9,500 miles from San Francisco in a small town in Kenya called Nandi Hills. It was here he grew up with his mom and brother and it was also where his passions for art and competitive running developed. As a visual person, Maru took a special interest in interior design. 

“I love the fact that you can create a space to make people happy,” the 32-year-old explained. “Even if you just walk into a room, it can change your mood.”

With a dream of becoming a designer, Maru had his sights set on attending art school. As a talented track athlete, he searched for art schools with an athletics program, a somewhat uncommon pairing, in hopes of getting a scholarship. Not only did the Academy have strong cross country and track and field programs, it also had what Maru called “outstanding” academic programs. 

He knew the Academy was the school for him. After applying, Maru waited anxiously across the globe to hear back. Finally, the phone call came.


Maru during a track and field meet during his time as an Art U athlete. Photo courtesy of Amos Maru.

“I got the call that changed my life,” the 32-year-old said. “They said you’ve been accepted and you’ll be getting a full-ride scholarship.’”

He packed up and headed to the Academy, his first trip to the United States. Now, five years since graduating in the fall of 2012, Maru spoke of his Academy experience with excitement, appreciation and said it was the most incredible cultural and academic learning experience of his life. 

“My four years [were] very intense. We learned a lot,” he said. “I really credit the Academy for what’s happened in my life. They gave me the opportunity and opened a lot of doors for me.” 

Maru talked about the valuable hands-on experience, constructive criticism and real-life teaching methods included in his courses that helped progress his career. Maru’s instructors praised his diligence and how he overcame the cultural challenges that came with living in a new country.  

Ernest Mariotto, instructor for the School of Interior Architecture & Design, had Maru as a freshman and shared that, early on, he struggled with a language barrier and understanding the educational standards of the Academy. However, Mariotto saw great potential in his student and suggested that Maru take advantage of the Academy Resource Center (ARC) to help him assimilate easier into American life.

“He came back a killer student,” Mariotto said. “He was an excellent student. He couldn’t have been more astute.” 

Maru also excelled in athletics at the Academy winning accolades including PacWest Cross Country Individual Champion in 2009 and 2011 and All-PacWest Cross Country Team in 2009, 2010 and 2011. Anne Ricketts, former track and field coach at the Academy, said aside from being a “natural and beautiful runner,” Maru created a strong sense of camaraderie within his team and enjoyed making others smile.


Maru during his time in the Army, where he trained as a construction engineer and a paratrooper. Photos courtesy of Amos Maru.


“Amos’ personality was just fun. He was such a gregarious student and made everyone laugh,” said Ricketts. “He was also a very supportive teammate and always cheered everyone on.” 

After graduation, Maru completed a six-month internship with an interior design firm in Texas where he met the woman who is now his wife. 

All of these experiences evoked a very strong sense of appreciation in Maru. One so strong that he decided to dedicate years of his life to serving his country the best way he thought possible. He joined the Army in 2013, trained as a construction engineer and a paratrooper—a job that relied heavily on interpreting blueprints, a skill Maru said his interior design degree helped develop.

Maru’s military term ended this past August, and he has returned to San Francisco, a city he loves, with his wife and two small children. Now studying for his GRE and deciding where to earn his Master of Business Administration, Maru said he holds a different outlook on life after his experiences in the United States. 

“It changed how I see life. It changed my perspective,” he said. “Before I came here, I was looking out through a small window. Now I have an open door and am looking outside at the entire world.”