UNC-Chapel Hill smiles at the rain

Joyful commencement in spite of the weather

If umbrellas could speak! Thousands of umbrellas were opened, then closed, and then opened again during UNC’s commencement on Sunday, as about 6,000 Carolina students graduated in Kenan Memorial Stadium. At the end of the ceremony, after a heartwarming rendition of Carolina In My Mind, the sun appeared as if on cue.

My view from the platform.
My view from the platform.

There is something truly magical about a Carolina commencement, and 2015 was no exception. The ceremony proceeded a bit behind schedule, due to rain, and modest accommodations were made for the weather. For example, we did not read degree names for each school. Students graduated just the same, and maybe everyone appreciated getting out a little faster.

Chancellor Folt speaks to many umbrellas!
Chancellor Folt speaks to many umbrellas!

The commencement speaker, Jason Kilar, a media and entertainment innovator, founder of Hulu and co-founder of Vessel, was funny, touching, sad and inspiring. I appreciated that, like our Gillings School commencement speaker, John Herrington, Kilar admitted that his life did not roll out like the Disney movie he had imagined. His career took a while to lift off, but when it did, he became hugely successful, first at Amazon, and then on his own, building Hulu.

kilar selfie
Jason Kilar took a selfie before starting his speech.

Kilar spoke about his love for family and the tragic suicide of his father, three days after Kilar graduated from Carolina in 1993. He said he’d never spoken about his father’s suicide publicly, and I told him afterward that it was a courageous and important thing to do. In sharing his family’s story, he may have opened the door for other families to share their personal experiences.

“It is your journey through the valleys that will define you,” Kilar told the graduates. “Doing what you love—pursuing your own path—is often the most unsettling option at the outset.”

He noted that well-traveled paths are more visible and appear to be less risky. “[Those paths] play better in conversations with the aunts, uncles and neighbors,” he said, “but don’t fall for it. You are UNC grads in blue gowns tossing capsbetter than that and have the strength to go your own way.” That’s great advice.

Congratulations and best wishes on your journeys, Carolina graduates.


For video clips of commencement, Kilar’s speech and much more, visit UNC-Chapel Hill’s YouTube channel.

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