The first female chancellor in University history signed her first diplomas at her first graduation as chancellor for 671 first-generation college graduates — a group known as Carolina Firsts .
“You’ll always forever be my very first class of graduates at Carolina,” Chancellor Carol Folt said during Sunday’s commencement ceremony in Kenan Memorial Stadium.
“I thought nothing could be finer than a Carolina spring ... until I saw all the Carolina blue grads sitting here today.”
As Folt continued her address, she induced sheepish smiles throughout the stadium.
“What is the ‘special sauce’ that keeps Carolina special?” Folt said.
“I’ve got a pretty good idea of the answer: It’s you.”
On Sunday, nearly 6,000 students became alumni at the commencement ceremony.
Among the 49 different degrees, psychology and biology were the most popular majors, recognizing 444 and 404 graduates respectively. Russian and Eastern European Studies was the rarest diploma given — only one student graduated with the major.
Atul Gawande , a surgeon and journalist, gave the commencement address. He started by asking for the new grads to bear with him as he compared the graduates to a study done on child cancer patients.
“That’s what happens when you put a doctor in between you and your degree,” said Gawande, who also received an honorary doctorate of science.
He detailed the essentials for post-graduation: taking the lessons one learned in college and applying them to the real world, finding a way to get connected to something bigger than just yourself and embracing challenges.
Gawande ended his speech by expressing his gratitude for the future contributions of the graduates as well as for his newest degree.
“Thank you for all you are going to do, and thank you for making me a Tar Heel,” he said.
Senior Class President Georgia Walker attempted to quell the fears of entering the post-graduation world with her classmates.
Walker utilized a quote from poet William G.T. Shedd .
“A ship is safe in harbor; that’s not what ships are built for,” Walker said.
As tradition dictates, commencement was held on Mother’s Day — and the sea of grads in the west end zone stands of the stadium was peppered with signs thanking their moms.
Walker enjoyed pointing out her mother, a Duke graduate, who was clad in Carolina blue for the occasion.
And her speech included the obligatory shots at former Carolina point guard Larry Drew II and Duke.
“We watched Duke chicken-out because of a couple of snowflakes,” Walker said.
While many speeches provided thought-provoking metaphors, Board of Trustees chairman W. Lowry Caudill kept it simple for the new graduates.
“You can change the world,” he said.
Contact the desk editor at firstname.lastname@example.org
View this video created by one of The Daily Tar Heel's new alumni, Katie Quine. She filmed one second of every day through her entire senior year.