Ralph Byrns has a Ph.D. in economics and has worked at nine universities — but many things in life still baffle him.
And while Byrns admitted Wednesday that he doesn’t understand why his wife wants diamonds and flowers — or “dead vegetation” — during the third annual Carolina Chiron Award Last Lecture, he did have wisdom to offer the crowd.
Byrns, who has been at the University since 2001 but is leaving for Arizona next year, spoke on the lessons he has drawn from his life experiences and his time at UNC.
“It’s kind of a goulash, and it’s not terribly well organized,” he said of his speech, titled “Mysteries and Puzzles, Form and Substance.”
The talk hit on topics ranging from superficiality to cheating, but it stayed true to Byrns’ professed vision of life — it’s messy.
“What we really have in this life when we’re trying to decide what to do is a mixture of things,” he said.
But he said some parts of that mixture outweigh the others. Byrns said that while form —how a person looks and behaves on the surface — is important, what’s inside a person is essential.
“Value is about substance, not about material. It is something that comes from inside human hearts,” Byrns said.
Byrns also said students at the University should always remember how lucky they are.