CHAPEL HILL – 35,000 people gathered in Chapel Hill Sunday in Kenan Stadium to celebrate the UNC Class of 2013.

“Welcome all of you to the ranks of the alumni from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill!” Chancellor Holden Thorp proclaimed to the stadium.

87-year-old Helen Joan Hunter, who’s come to be known as Grandma Jo, was in attendance and turned her tassel with the rest of the 6,027 graduates.


In 1947, she was set to graduate from UNC with her husband but she became ill with appendicitis and was forced to make other plans.

“It was too much trouble going to the library, so I thought I would just do it later—65 years later!” she said.

She only needed three credit hours to earn her degree from UNC. Hunter decided to complete transfer credits from Arizona State University, close to where she lives now. Her final college course was “The Study of Elvis.”

“I don’t have a computer so they had to bring one over to my house and get it plugged-in and I did very well in it. I got an A minus. I was able to finally get my degree,” Hunter said.

Hunter received a special shout-out from Thorp during the ceremony— the crowd joined him with a standing ovation.

UNC System President Tom Ross recognized Thorp in turn. This marked the fifth and final spring commencement ceremony for outgoing chancellor, whose time at the position was marked with various scandals and controversies.

“Chancellor Thorp has faced more than his share of challenges, but his love of and devotion to Carolina are beyond question,” Ross said.

Commencement speaker and AOL co-founder Steve Case praised Thorp as well. The two worked together the first forum of the National Advisory Council on Innovation and Entrepreneurship (NACIE) held at the Kenan-Flagler Business School.

Case took from his background in business to advise the graduates in their future endeavors.

“There a few things that I hope you remember when you walk out of Kenan Stadium today—what I like to call the 3 P’s. They are people, passion, and perseverance. I have found they are the keys to success in whatever you do,” Case said.

Former UNC star basketball player Eric Montross also spoke at the ceremony. The 7-footer’s voice boomed across the speakers.

“Good morning graduating Tar Heels!” Montross exclaimed. “After years of diligent moments and expectation, you have earned your degree from Carolina.”