Michele Alexandre was thinking as she was carried away from the commencement exercises on the shoulders of her brother Emanuel and Lee Smith '90, "Colgate has been so supportive for me. I want to be able to hug everybody."
When Michele had been announced as the Class of 1996 valedictorian and walked across the stage to pick up her diploma she was buoyed by a huge ovation. It was all a fitting end to a remarkable career.
"I dreamed of being valedictorian," says Michele, a Haitian for whom English is a second language. "It is symbolic of a lot of things. It is a testament to all the people who helped me through the years.
"I've had a lot of mentors -- Lee Smith, Lisa deLeon '83, Professor (Harvey) Sindima, all my French and English professors -- people who told me I could do it. I wanted to be as powerful as them."
And the honor is meaningful on an even more personal level for Michele.
"My mom didn't know much about my world and I wanted her to see she had done a good job and that all the sacrifices she made were worth it."
Being named valedictorian was only the latest honor for Michele. Earlier in the semester she earned a Watson Fellowship for a year of travel to study the socialization of second generation Haitians in France, Canada and across the Caribbean.
At April's Awards Convocation Michele was presented the 1819 Award in recognition of her "character, scholarship and service to others."
Michele, an RA and tutor, is also a Dana Scholar, Adam Clayton Powell '30 Award winner and member of Phi Beta Kappa. She has danced with Kuumba, sung with the Sojourners and performed Shakespeare. Literature is her passion, and Michele dealt with obsession in French literature, from Zola to Annie Ernaux, in her high honors thesis.
"I've had great teachers who've influenced me and I've met great people who've guided me," says Michele.
"My time at Colgate went by in the blink of an eye, but it has been a great four years."
And when it was over Michele Alexandre wanted to hug everybody.