Many UNC seniors entered secondary education with AOL as a part of their lives.
A decade later, as they go out into the world, members of the class of 2013 will end their undergraduate careers on a familiar note.
Steve Case, co-founder of AOL, will give the spring Commencement speech May 12, UNC announced Monday.
Case, who now serves as chairman and CEO of Revolution, an investment firm that has backed companies like Zipcar, co-founded AOL in 1985.
Chancellor Holden Thorp said Case’s experience in the technology field and dedication to philanthropy made him an excellent choice.
“He’s been a powerful advocate for the role of entrepreneurship and the furtherance of the country and an advocate for national policy,” Thorp said. “A lot of our students are going to start their own business or be a part of a business — he embodies all of those things.”
Thorp picked Case from a list of more than 10 candidates recommended by the Commencement speaker selection committee, which is composed of students and faculty.
Ron Strauss, executive vice provost who led the Commencement speaker committee, said the committee’s goal is to consider a variety of speakers, and this year’s list consisted entirely of entrepreneurs.
“This is a campus that’s leading the nation in its interest in innovation,” Strauss said.
“Students who are not sure what their next steps in life are will be able to see someone who’s embraced many different foci — I expect that to be inspiring.”
Case and his wife started the Case Foundation, a non-profit organization that funds initiatives that aim to increase giving and promote civic action.
Thorp said Case is constantly thinking about the state of the country and the world, a dedication that qualifies him to pass on advice to students.
“For students who are about to leave and go out in that world, I can’t think of a better person to hear from than Steve Case,” Thorp said.
The University’s Commencement speaker appears for free, a tradition Strauss said is special to UNC.
“I love that tradition with Commencement speakers; it’s the right way to do it,” he said.
“People are not coming here for the money. They’re coming here because they want to do it.”
Case also has several connections to UNC. He presented with Thorp at the first forum of the National Advisory Council on Innovation and Entrepreneurship, which he co-chairs.
Case also spoke to Thorp’s Economics 125 class earlier this semester where he encouraged students to pursue their business passions.
Senior Brett Barnard said he’s looking forward to hearing Case speak at graduation.
“It’s important for us graduating college and going out into the real world that we hear from someone who has a business perspective, “ Barnard said.
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