By Stern Class of 2010
Michelle Alyssa Go, Stern MBA Class of 2010, was killed in a senseless act of violence in Times Square on January 15th in a case that made national news.
Michelle Go hated attention. And yet there she was, a fifty-foot image of her smile lighting up Times Square. Down at the podium, the first in a long line of dignitaries queued up to speak at our friend’s vigil on a cold January night. They talked about what they had learned about her generous spirit, her brilliant mind, how she impacted her community through the Junior League and elsewhere.
Michelle’s smile didn’t waver that night. She graciously endured the accolades unspooling below. She remained understanding as politicians pivoted to larger societal issues. Not once did Michelle shoo everyone off the stage, beg everyone to just go inside and get warm. She didn’t climb down off that shimmering billboard to see if anyone wanted to sneak off, maybe grab dinner somewhere.
You could almost feel Michelle’s relief when, at last, her friends got up to speak. Kim Garnett and Louise Chang of Deloitte told us what it was like to do work or live life with Michelle. How her clients loved her, the impact she made for women at Deloitte. They noted how upset Michelle would be that she didn’t get to maximize the value of the Disney World annual pass she bought a couple of months back. She was, they pointed out, a finance guru to the core.
Then our own Rakesh Duggal got up and, among the sweet stories, informed us how Michelle lovingly relieved him of the responsibility of booking hotel rooms on a trip to Africa when he messed up the nights. (One time, Rakesh reminded us. In twelve years of friendship. One time.)
That was Michelle: She didn’t want to waste a moment of this life. She wrung the value out of every day. When she saw something as a waste of time – a project, an assignment, delegating the booking of hotel rooms (sorry Rakesh, you know we love you) – Michelle called it out, because there were better ways to spend that exact minute.
And how did she spend all those minutes? Our brilliant time manager and strategist – how did she use all that time she saved?
That’s the thing: She spent it on us.
Not just volunteering for Block Leader, not just organizing conferences, not just helping us study and prep. This went beyond the walls of Stern.
At Deloitte, Kim Garnett described Michelle as the one who always said yes. Our Rebekah Ahn described Michelle as her “Yes friend.” We hear that about Michelle again and again, from all areas of her life. She said yes. Yes to last minute trips, yes to taking on more work when a colleague needed her, yes to adventure, yes to sitting with us in our times of joy and despair.
When a friend says yes to you, they are sacrificing something – their time, their comfort, maybe their resources. In that sweet, small moment when a Yes forms on a friend’s lips, they are telling you that your happiness, your comfort, your need is more important than their own.
Michelle made that decision every day. That’s why she had to be efficient – because so many of us called on her. She couldn’t waste a single moment.
If we were together, our Class of 2010, we would sit around and tell Michelle stories. We would pass around photos. But we are scattered. We have careers and friends and families and lives.
Here, though, we can share a few memories and photos. Michelle wouldn’t want the attention, we know that. But the attention isn’t on her – not really. She knows that. She knows that the attention is now on us, because every time she put our needs before hers, she transferred a little bit of herself to us. She changed us, one yes at a time.
We are Michelle’s legacy. Even those of us who didn’t know her well are changed by the very people she changed. That’s the power of our classmate, our travel buddy, our colleague, our Yes Friend.
As ever, Michelle managed to make it about us.
Some memories from the Class of 2010…
“No one could take action when travel went awry like Michelle — in 2014, my bags got lost on our way to Croatia. While I would have spent 3 days sitting in the airport yelling at airline representatives and waiting for them to magically reappear, Michelle calmly walked me to the car rental counter, rented a car with the international drivers license I didn’t know was a thing, and searched (on a very large first generation iPad) for the nearest mall on google maps. Spotty service may have taken us off roading through an open field to get there, but she turned what could have been a mess into one of my favorite memories. 8 years later, I’m still wearing those “emergency” shorts — and they always make me smile.”
“Michelle was always smiling, willing to pitch in and help and a key member of our class. It’s rare to have a personality and presence that people gravitate and remember fondly even after so many years.”
“Michelle and I went to Oktoberfest twice. The first time, she had arrived in Munich in the morning and had already fully assessed and evaluated the local ‘dirndl scene’ by the time I met her in the afternoon. She had identified the best stores and most unique offerings, getting one of the traditional German dresses made from African print fabric from a niche local designer. She had been there for only a few hours and was already an expert. Knowledgeable enough to advise multiple other people on their dirndl purchases, including me! We had a fantastic time at the festival, spending some time in the beer tents, but most of the time going on roller coasters and rides, including the super high chair swing ride multiple times, in our dirndls. Going anywhere with Michelle just made the experience ten times more fun.”
“Michelle and I often worked together in planning events and activities for our block during our time at Stern. I couldn’t have asked for a better person to work with as block leaders. I always considered her smart, thoughtful, considerate and kind. She brought out a sense of happiness in other people with her big smile and the positive way she lived her life.”
“She was warm, witty and down-to-earth…just a really cool person. But come wedding/event time, she brought that glam and my goodness, she always transformed into a stunning goddess. I looked forward to seeing her glam and gorgeous gowns at these events. I was lucky enough to spend extra time with her most recently because her work often brought her to LA for the Disney & Hulu merger. The last time we hung out, she wanted to check out the Magic Castle. Of course Alyssa Milano sat next to her and they chatted like old friends, while she secretly made ‘omg faces.’”
“What I remember of Michelle is a genuine, bright smile, and a feeling she instilled in me, and in everyone, in the internship recruiting days, of camaraderie and support that I can feel until today. She never judged, always cheered on. I am in awe of Michelle making the most of every second of her life and in awe of how much everyone here, and especially her closest friends, have rallied to support each other and her family. It sounds silly, but I now catch myself questioning – what would Michelle do? and push myself to do more, in her memory.”
“One weekend, while at Stern, Michelle and I decided to randomly take the train out to Southampton for the day to get our toes in the sand. As we strolled to the beach, we picked out our favorite houses and decided that one day we would have a big Hamptons home, with blue hydrangeas and white picket fences, where our families could spend their summers together. Hydrangeas always remind me of Michelle and make me smile.”
“During a conversation in Pre-term Michelle and I learned we shared a passion for SCUBA diving. Of course, given her zest for travel Michelle had been on far more dives in exotic places all over the world. We got the opportunity to dive together on Australia’s Great Barrier Reef before our Melbourne DBI. It was an amazing experience and included a dive where two 8-foot bull sharks followed our group around. I’ll be thinking of her every time I go on an underwater adventure.”
“I found Michelle intimidating at first…sure, she had that megawatt smile. She also had a self assuredness and even a swagger, that many of us (me especially!) lacked in the first months of school. So I decided I’d try and make my way into her cool and collected world by convincing her to join the SWIB Board. Thankfully, Michelle became my Yes friend! I remember the two of us going paddle boarding while on DBI Australia – we thought it would be some great adventure, but we ended up in a sleepy marina, where Michelle proceeded to boop the very large jellyfish to keep us entertained. One of the things I loved most about Michelle was her giggle, which usually accompanied her honing device for adventure. I’m grateful Michelle said yes to being my friend, sad and upset that she’s gone too soon, and I’ll remember how she embraced life and all of us by saying yes.”
“I find myself in awe of what I am discovering Michelle accomplished these last 12 years since we left Stern. Admittedly, we were never close and I did not stay in touch beyond the occasional Facebook like on a post. Michelle was obviously so much more than that. To her friends and family, she was the world. To me now, she is an inspiration for everything she accomplished and what is more, for the positivity I am learning she lived by. What I remember of Michelle is a genuine, bright smile, and a feeling she instilled in me, and in everyone, in the internship recruiting days, of camaraderie and support that I can feel until today. She never judged, always cheered on. I am in awe of Michelle making the most of every second of her life and in awe of how much everyone here, and especially her closest friends, have rallied to support each other and her family. It sounds silly, but I now catch myself questioning – what would Michelle do? and push myself to do more, in her memory.”
“What I remember most about Michelle is how much we laughed together. The ultimate friend. Kind, thoughtful, hilarious, just someone both my (fellow Sternie) husband and I always looked forward to spending time with. We traveled the world together, attended parties, events, weddings and celebrations together, but also, supported each other during life’s challenges. She was the kind of friend that goes through all the seasons of life with you, effortlessly, and with a smile. You only get a few of those friends in a lifetime, and I’m so incredibly grateful she was one of mine. We’ll never make sense of this unspeakable tragedy, but I will live differently going forward. Making the call. Sending the text. And taking a page out of her book by living life with the same passion, kindness, and positivity. Her life was an example to us all.”
“Michelle and I have been on a quest to find the world’s best beaches – we took a trip to Saint Martin several years ago. On our second day there, Michelle planned a day trip to St. Barths. We took the ferry over and rented a car to drive the island. Our first stop was Anse de Flamands. Michelle looked out at the beach and decided it could make our list but needed ‘further investigation.’ We ended up changing our plans and staying there for the WHOLE trip – we had no luggage (since we left it all on St. Martin), so we bought new clothes. That experience was so Michelle – always up for a random trip to find a beautiful beach and float the day away.”
“Everyone has a ‘list’ with Michelle. That is, a list of countries that they traveled to alongside Michelle. Mine was Italy, Australia, and the Dominican Republic. I’m sure I am missing a few given she made it to 80 countries. But more, a list of stories from each of those trips with Michelle. They way she kicked off New Year’s Eve 2010 in Australia as the life of the party with champagne in hand. The way she laughed at my wife in the Dominican Republic for her ‘heat exhaustion’ (ie, drank too much champagne at the wedding). The way her shoes hurt at the wedding in Italy and how she let everyone know about it.”
“A bright, positive approach to life came naturally to Michelle, and it benefitted all of us. You recall her always being present – both physically and emotionally in the moment for every engagement party, wedding, or casual hangout. And you remember how she made you feel after seeing her – it was always so easy to have a smile and a laugh with Michelle.”
“Stories coming out now revealed more about Michelle. A deeper generosity that we never knew about, because she never told us. I knew Michelle for 14 years and never knew she was involved with the Junior League (shame on me). But she never publicized it because it was never about her own recognition. She was only concerned with the positive impact she was having on others, and no one else needed to know about it other than the people she was helping directly.”
“While it hasn’t gotten any easier to process what has happened, I have promised myself and Michelle that we will live in the moment with our friends and family just as she did. We will strive to make a positive impact on everyone around us without seeking recognition, and we will SMILE when we remember how lucky we were to know Michelle’s warmth and friendship.”