The sun was shining bright and the moms were beaming proud on Mother’s Day at UNC’s 2014 Commencement.
In a year marked by a lot of media scrutiny of academic standards for student-athletes at UNC-Chapel Hill, Chancellor Carol Folt was clearly glad to be talking to nearly 6,000 happy graduates and their loved ones on this sunny and pleasant Sunday morning.
“Carolina is your springboard for the part that you’re going to play in a world of exploding potential,” said Folt.
Then she added:
“You will also, forever be my very first class of graduates at Carolina.”
That got a big round of applause.
“Thank you,” she acknowledged. “I am so proud of you.”
Some of the notable events of the year were given a humorous spin by UNC Class President Georgia Walker, who recalled Snowpacolypse 2014 and some of the failings of Alert Carolina.
“We’ve been abandoned by Larry Drew,” she said to boo-ing from the crowd, “and we watched Duke chicken out because of a couple of snowflakes.”
That last dig got cheers. It was, of course, a reference to Duke canceling a basketball game against UNC at the Smith Center on Feb. 12, 2014 due to heavy snowfall. The game was postponed until Feb. 20, and UNC won 74-66.
Walker also had a lot of nice things to say about the faculty and staff of UNC, as well as her fellow students. And there was one more person she urged graduates to thank on this commencement day, which also happened to be Mother’s Day:
“Even as a Duke graduate, my mom is here today wearing Carolina blue, loud and proud!”
And for sure, there were quite a few graduates in the crowd holding up signs that expressed love and gratitude for mom.
The commencement speaker was renowned surgeon and journalist Dr. Atul Gawande, who works at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, Mass., in addition to teaching at Harvard and writing for The New Yorker about optimizing medical care.
After receiving an Honorary Doctor of Science Degree from UNC, Gawande urged students to stay connected to their community, and to make a difference — not just focus on personal gain.
“Just existing through your desires feels empty and insufficient because our desires are fleeting and insatiable,” he said. “You need a loyalty.”
Other recipients of a total of six honorary degrees included former North Carolina Governor Bev Perdue, who received an Honoray Doctor of Laws degree; and acclaimed author Armistead Maupin, Jr., a Raleigh native and 1966 graduate of UNC. He received an honorary Doctor of Letters degree.
After the ceremony was over, a couple of graduates talked to WCHL about the excitement of this day.
Mykki Adams earned a degree in Exercise and Sport Science. Eight family members came to watch her move the tassel on her graduation cap from the right to the left. Her proud mom was one of them.
“It’s just an honor and a privilege to call myself an alum of UNC,” said Mykki Adams.
Kristin Oliver said that “a whole crowd” of family members came from Cleveland, Ohio to watch her receive a degree in Environmental Sciences.
Oliver said she’s been happy with her UNC experience.
“I spent the last semester, this fall, at the coast, doing research,” she said, “so, I mean, this last year has been great.”