No professor had a more profound impact on Michele Steele (BA ’00, economics) — formerly of Bloomberg TV and since 2012 of ESPN — than Alain Fresco*.
But first, about that asterisk: “Full disclosure,” Steele says. “I spent the vast majority of my time on campus at The Daily Illini — so there’s an argument that Will Leitch or Michael David Smith or The White Horse all had meaningful impacts on my formative years in Champaign.
“But if I may ...
“As an econ major within the liberal arts school — our unofficial motto: We won’t take accounting and you can’t make us — I took a bunch of classes to round out some of the business-oriented requirements for my degree.
“One of those non-stats, non-econ classes was a 300-level French language course on Afro-Caribbean literature, taught by Dr. Alain Fresco.
“I still have a couple of books from the class, still remember some of the authors. Fresco approached me near the end the semester my senior year and asked what I was doing post-college — I said, not at all joking, I would be delaying whatever fabulous career was in store.
“He encouraged me to apply to a program that sent some U.S. students to France to teach English — he was kind enough to write me a recommendation.
“I did and couldn’t be more grateful for the nudge. I spent two phenomenal years in the Loire Valley and in the French West Indies, an island called Martinique, where I worked, traveled and generally laid the foundations for a taste for adventure and an openness to new opportunities — especially the unexpected ones.”