When Michael Alonzo received the Faculty Prize at The Hun School 104th Commencement on June 8th, Junior Class Dean Ted Shaffner was not surprised.
On his first day of teaching at Hun in 2013, Mr. Shaffner heard Michael, then an eighth grader, speak at Convocation. “I thought, if this is the kind of student that we have at Hun, I’m in the right place,” he said.
Mr. Shaffner is not alone. A discussion and vote of faculty determines the winner of the Faculty Prize, The Hun School’s most prestigious student prize. It is awarded annually to a graduating senior who “most exemplifies those characteristics of scholarship, integrity, reliability, sportsmanship, leadership, and character, we most desire in our students.”
“I’m grateful for all that the amazing faculty and staff have done for me during my time at Hun,” said Michael, who was student body president this year. “I’m honored to be recognized by them in such a profound way.”
At Hun since seventh grade, Michael grew up in Franklin Township with his mother, an attorney, his father, an electrical engineer, and his sister, Lilly ’16. He and his family chose Hun, he said, because “I was looking for a quality education.” Michael heads to Swarthmore College this fall, where he will likely study a pre-law or pre-medical track.
In addition to his outstanding academic record, Michael participated in student government for four years, serving in the House of Representatives and on Honor Council. Truth be told, he did not have a “burning ambition” to be student body president.
“I was talking about lots of ideas I had to make the school better,” Michael recalled. “When (Upper School Head) Mr. Hews heard my ideas, he said ‘Why don’t you run?’ So I did.”
He considers his biggest accomplishments to be inter-school dances, in which students from other Princeton schools can attend; negotiating more dress-down days and a more relaxed dress code; and giving every Hun student a refillable water bottle to improve campus sustainability. (The bottles will arrive next school year.) He said lessons learned from being president include “that governing and campaigning are two different things, to never overlook the value of experience, and that you can’t please everyone.”
Michael’s other pursuits have included theatre tech and acting (he appeared in Metamorphosis and And Then There Were None). He also sang in Voice Male, the boys cappella group, and played saxophone in the jazz band.
Academically, Michael has enjoyed history classes, including AP U.S. History and AP Government with Ms. Joanna Hallac. He considers Mr. Hews the “most creative teacher” he has had. Mr. Shaffner, who has taught him AP Literature and public speaking, he calls his most “in-depth, thoughtful, and mind-blowing” teacher. And Mr. Shaffner shares a similar admiration.
“Michael wrote a paper in which he tried to prove that Hamlet’s uncle, Claudius, did not murder Hamlet’s father,” noted Mr. Shaffner of what is a foregone conclusion in the play. “Michael made me rethink this play, that I had been reading since I was 10 years old, and go back over it.” Mr. Shaffner said he’s enjoyed watching Michael’s intellect grow.
“Anytime I see someone with a gift, I look for where they can improve,” said Mr. Shaffner. “I told Michael ‘You are gifted, and I’m not going to let you get away with it,’” he said. Clearly, this graduate has not rested on his laurels.