Feature Stories Campus Events All Stories

My W&L: Madeleine Boireau ’17

“One of my goals is to bring Hillel to the students — to show them that we’re here, and that we’re here for everyone. “

A scream that would send shivers down your spine came from the backyard.

“What digit has my mom just severed with her rose clippers?” I wondered. “The nearest hospital is at UCLA. Where are the keys?” I knew change was to come with a sound like that coming from a human being. Little did I know it would be my life.

For some reason, unbeknownst to me, my mother was sent the email saying my “status” had changed on my Washington and Lee profile. I was jumping, she was jumping, I’m sure my then-12-year-old Labrador even caught some air. I was moving to Virginia for what I was told would be the best four years of my life. Three years in, I’d like to say that I understand what everyone meant. Washington and Lee has given me the opportunity to change my major twice, go from the “pre-med” track to the “pre-what-am-I-doing-with-my-life” track and be ok with it.

Truth be told, I was worried about coming to such a small school. The student bodies of all except one other school I applied to were at least twice that of W&L. I was worried I would feel restricted by the size of the school and the remote location, especially coming from a city like Los Angeles. Now, I can’t imagine being anywhere else. I don’t think I would have discovered myself anywhere else in the way that I have here.

I grew up always identifying as Jewish, but frankly it wasn’t until I came to Washington and Lee that I began to really learn about the customs and traditions of the culture. I met my best friend at Hillel and would never have participated in the organization had it not been for her. I started with work-study and couldn’t wait to be on the board. My first position was First-Year Liaison, trying to get other first year students involved; I wanted them to see what I saw in Hillel.

Sophomore year I was elected vice president and began having much more input on what I wanted Hillel to be. It may be a cliché, but I saw a new family — a community I could rely on. No matter what denomination, there’s a sense of unity that I truly haven’t found anywhere else on campus. Hillel’s openness to all forms of Judaism and all religions, or lack thereof, may not have brought me to the organization, but it is definitely what keeps me coming back. I was worried I wasn’t “Jewish enough” to participate in Shabbat Dinners or Rosh Hashanah services, but what makes Hillel at W&L so special is that you don’t have to be Jewish at all. Judaism is not only a religion, but also a culture that loves to share. This year as president, one of my goals is to bring Hillel to the students — to show them that we’re here, and that we’re here for everyone.

This experience has given me the chance to learn about how an organization is run and the work that is put into it. I have had the chance to work one-on-one with the Washington and Lee communications office to learn about the importance of a social media presence and how to achieve it. I have been able to work with professors and different deans to get a Jewish presence on campus. These opportunities have provided me with skills that I otherwise would have had to learn later in life — most likely without a support system like the one at Washington and Lee.

I can say with extreme confidence that there is no institution out there like Washington and Lee. And to think it all started with an ear-piercing shriek.

If you know any W&L students who would be great profile subjects, tell us about them! Nominate them for a web profile.

Hometown: Los Angeles, CA

Majors: French and Environmental Studies

Extracurricular Involvement:

  • President of Hillel
  • Speak
  • ODI Advisory Board member
  • Hillel Work-Study
  • Pi Beta Phi

Favorite Campus Landmark: The Colonnade – sometimes I walk the long way to class just to take the Colonnade route.

What’s something people wouldn’t guess about you? I co-parent a fish named Barbara Streisand with my housemate.

Why did you choose your major? I took an intro to Enviro course with Professor Leah Green and finally found something I enjoyed studying and enjoyed working on, so I didn’t see an option other than declaring.