Saturday at 1pm, those of us on the stage (including our fabulous faculty, student leaders, commencement speaker and others) looked out upon hundreds of beaming faces as family and friends watched expectantly for their very special graduate to enter elegant Memorial Hall. The procession of graduates signaled the beginning of the end of their time at Carolina. Every year, I enjoy the process more. Where else can you find so much joy in one room, so many exultant families and friends and so much accomplishment? Our team at the SPH does a fabulous job of planning and executing a very complicated event – from requesting space for the ceremony every year to selecting and inviting speakers, planning the ceremony itself and making sure every graduate will have a chair, and then orchestrating the very large party at the School afterwards. Assistant Dean for Students Felicia Mebane, along with Sherry Rhodes, Amy Hitlin, Nicole Chenault, Brent Wishart, Linda Kastleman, Cathy Padgett, Paige Eppenstein Anderson, Nancy Colvin and other student services managers and registrars and many others all did their parts, along with students like Mohamed Jalloh who’d picked the graduation speaker, Jack Geiger, MD, MSciHyg. Dr. Geiger is an awesome individual who was one of the catalysts behind community health centers and shared a Nobel Prize for his role in starting Physicians for Social Responsibility. More info on Dr. Geiger.In looking back on his own MPH graduation 50 years ago, Dr. Geiger reminded us how much work still remains to be done to bring health, health equity and social equality to all people in this country, although we have traveled many miles in those years. Jeff Nguyen gave a fabulous introduction of Dr. Geiger!The highlight of the event is always the part when our graduates cross the stage. As I shook their hands and gave them their temporary diplomas (the real ones take a bit longer), I realized how many of these amazing young people I’d gotten to know, like and respect.Back at the School, the mood was exuberant as graduates and their friends and families celebrated together and with our faculty and staff. I was excited to meet the families of some of our students.As I have said before, meeting our students, hearing their personal sagas into public health and learning what they have done since coming here would soften the heart of the most cynical person. These graduates are going to tackle some of the world’s toughest problems – getting safe water to people who lack it, turning the tide on the obesity epidemic, changing health policies, improving the health of mothers and children, understanding new infectious threats, developing faster clinical trials and so much more.Our newest graduates will fan out across North Carolina and around the world, solving problems, preventing disease and promoting health. Most of them won’t become wealthy, but they are people of inestimable value. These people, like their colleagues, will help to make our world healthier, safer and more just.
Sunday’s ceremony: a perfect carolina blue day
Sunday was the University commencement ceremony, and it was a glorious Carolina blue day. In the movie script for the perfect commencement, this would have been the day, and Kenan Stadium the place. John Grisham, the author, was an ideal commencement speaker. He did not take himself too seriously yet he gave some excellent advice, including “call home once a week.” (Watch his speech.) That sea of blue gowns just exuded the thrill of the day. Yet, interwoven through the speakers and the emotional sounds of Carolina on My Mind and Hark the Sound was the soulful reminder that for many of these students (and now, for me, as well), this place will draw them in and hold them close in the most remarkable way.Congratulations graduates! Thank you for choosing Carolina! Hark the sound!Happy Monday. Barbara