Final tests have been taken and last papers have been handed in, but on a rainy Sunday morning at Kenan Stadium the Class of 2015 was given one more assignment: take risks and make their own path.
“Doing what you love — pursuing your own path — is often the most unsettling option at the outset,” said Jason Kilar, a media and entertainment innovator. “The paths that others have traveled before you, those are the paths that have greater visibility. They appear lower risk. They play better in conversations with the aunts, uncles and neighbors. But don’t fall for it. You are better than that and have the strength to go your own way.”
Kilar, the co-founder and CEO of Vessel and former founding CEO of Hulu, delivered the Commencement address as Carolina celebrated the graduation of the nearly 6,000 students May 10.
The ceremony was presided over by Chancellor Carol L. Folt and drew approximately 29,000 of the graduates’ family and friends, as well as University leaders including UNC President Tom Ross, Board of Governors member Edwin McMahan, Board of Trustees Chair W. Lowry Caudill and General Alumni Association Board of Directors Chair Vaughan Bryson.
“Graduates, just look around you and take in this very special moment — it’s something that you’ve been working for for years,” Folt said. “Now you’re here, and you’re sharing this with your friends, with your families and with your supporters. I know everyone in this stadium is just as proud of your accomplishments as are all members of the Carolina family, faculty and staff who have helped you reach this milestone.
“… Class of 2015, you truly are the finest testament to the future of this great university, to this great state, to this nation and the world that I can possibly imagine.”
The degrees of more than 6,000 Carolina students were conferred during the roughly two-hour ceremony. They included 3,769 with bachelor’s, 1,419 with masters, 217 with doctoral and 648 with professional degrees from the schools of dentistry, law, medicine, nursing and pharmacy.
“Your minds are sharp and filled with ideas; you can write, speak and think with the best of them; you are prepared to engage globally and locally, and are truly ready to tackle allof the many adventures, opportunities and challenges life will bring to you,” Ross said. “I am hopeful and confident that each of you will be successful — some of you as doctors or lawyers, some as teachers or scholars, some as entrepreneurs, some working in non-profits, some as CEOs and some making life-changing or life-saving discoveries.”
Secretary of the Faculty Joseph S. Ferrell also awarded honorary degrees to six people: Catarina de Albuquerque, international human rights lawyer and advocate; Peter Ware Higgs, professor of physics and astronomy emeritus at the University of Edinburgh, Scotland; Mary Elizabeth Junck, chief executive officer and chair of Lee Enterprises, a major newspaper corporation and currently is chair of the board of the Associated Press; R. Charles Loudermilk Sr., entrepreneur, philanthropist, business and community leader, and consensus builder; Charles W. Millard III, an art history scholar, writer and curator who served as director of the Ackland Art Museum from 1986 to 1993; and Wyndham Gay Robertson, Fortune magazine’s first female assistant managing editor.
Speaking about his own experiences after graduating from Carolina in 1993, Kilar encouraged graduates to find their passion and pursue it. But by doing so, he said, they must beprepared to face personal and professional adversity as they find their own paths.
“My wish is thatyou make it the most epic of adventures possible,” he said. “Dream big. Take the risk. Fail. Pick yourself back up again. And always, always remember this: There is no adversity capable of stopping you once the choice to persevere is made.”
In creating their own paths, Kilar urged the graduates to not fear doing what is new and to pursue their ideas “relentlessly.”
“The typical human response in the face of the new is to ignore, mock or dismiss it. New is scary. New is the unknown. Most everyone does not believe that the new will work, until it does.”