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Meghan Markle: From NU to aspiring actor to future British royal

Britain's Prince Harry and his fiancee Meghan Markle at Kensington Palace in London on Monday. Britain's royal palace says the two are engaged and will marry in the spring of 2018. | Matt Dunham/Associated Press

Before she was the wearer of a priceless diamond engagement ring (estimated size: 2.5 carats), the future Duchess of Sussex, and betrothed to the prince formerly known to many as “bad-boy” Harry, she was just Meghan: communications major.

In the spring of 2003, Meghan Markle was one of eight students enrolled in Prof. Harvey Young’s “Studies in Black Performance” class at Northwestern University.

“She reminded me of a lot of our other very promising alumni, in that she was passionate about theater and really had a sense of self-confidence that you could imagine would allow her to weather the storms of the professional world,” Young recalled.

Meghan Markle’s Kappa Kappa Gamma composite/portrait photo from her 2000-2001 academic year. | Photo courtesy of Northwestern University

But how will she weather the storm of unceasing worldwide media attention?

“My sense is that she can handle it. … She hasn’t flinched in the glare of the spotlight,” Young said. “She has stood tall and been outspoken about issues and matters that concern her.”

Young praised the “Suits” actress’ on-going public commitment to women’s rights and gender equality, among other issues.

It’s been almost 15 years. So Young doesn’t recall every detail of Markle’s participation in his class, but he said she was a “respectful” student with “tons of potential.” He said she’d talked about being in a sorority, but he wouldn’t go into details.

Prince Harry and Meghan Markle hold hands as they greet reporters at The Sunken Gardens at Kensington Palace on in London on Monday. The engagement ring features a large diamond flanked by two smaller ones; the smaller gems once belonged to Princess Diana. | Chris Jackson/Getty Images

Young was so impressed with Markle that he often tells first-year students about her story — as an example of someone who is self-made, committed to her art as well as her principles.

On Monday, Northwestern issued a statement about the future duchess.

“We’re excited to learn of the news that our alumna, Meghan Markle, will marry Britain’s Prince Harry. On behalf of Northwestern University, we extend our congratulations to the couple. His mother, Princess Diana, visited Northwestern in 1996, so we are particularly pleased to welcome Prince Harry to the extended Northwestern family,” said Laura Wayland, executive director of the Northwestern Alumni Association, in a statement.

Markle isn’t the only one in her family with a Chicago-area connection. The British newspaper the Daily Mail was reporting that her father, Thomas Markle, was an award-winning lighting director at WTTW-Channel 11 in the 1970s. A representative from the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences, Chicago/Midwest Chapter confirmed that a Thomas Markle had won an Emmy in 1975 for his lighting work on the show “Made in Chicago.”