COLLEGE STATION -- Marquis Alexander knows he's making history. He's just pretty modest about it.
"In a way, it's kind of a 'who cares?' kind of thing," he said. "But, I can't deny that it is significant."
He is the commander of the much-revered Texas A&M University Corps of Cadets, a student military organization of more than 2,200 members, created when Texas A&M was founded in 1876.
Marquis is the corps' first African American commander.
"The way I look at it, it's a platform," he said. "If I did it, you can do it as well."
Marquis' race isn't the only thing about him that's unique. He's a Marine Corps reservist. That means for the first time since World War II, the corps commander has military experience.
"It's funny how they parallel each other," he said.
It means his life of drill practice until sunset and formation before sunrise feels more than familiar. It feels right.
"I see that he has experiences from his service that he applies in the corps," said Luc L'Ecuyer, a senior serving on Alexander's staff. "Lessons he's learned, things he's seen from officers in the military -- he's actually taken away a lot of good lessons and applied them here. And he has a better perspective of how things work in the real world."
Marquis said his job as commander is really to give the a voice to the cadets.
"I sit on a lot of panels," he said, laughing. "I'm pretty much a congressman, if you will, for the corps. But I love it, because it's an amazing job.
"And this is going to sound weird, but I feel like I'm a proud parent because I feel like I have 2,200 kids," he continued, before catching himself, saying, "I mean, young adults."
He is a little older than most of his cadets. He is 23, because he enlisted in the Marine Corps reserves at 18, when he was convinced Texas A&M had rejected him. Turns out, his acceptance letter arrived when he was at Marine Corps boot camp.
"There was nothing I could do about it then," he said.
So he upheld his pledge to his country, finishing almost two years as an active duty reservist, "and then I decided that I wanted to go to school."
So he came to A&M to join the corps and four years later, he found himself commanding it. He sees striking parallels.
"I learned time management, how to balance my money, how to have self discipline, in the Marine Corps," he said, "then I came here to the corps and they were preaching the same message."
Marquis is not alone in service to the country. The corps has almost two dozen members who have already completed tours of duty overseas as members of the military.
"We're here to develop leaders," he said, "and I think the two organizations go hand-in-hand in that aspect."
Leaders inspire, and that's Marquis wants to do.
"Okay, I may be the first African-American, it hasn't been done before," he said. "Well, now we need the first Chinese-American, first female, first Indian-American."
Marquis remains in the reserves and plans to make a career of the Marine corps. But he's hoping to fit in a semester of studying abroad before graduating in 2013.