Members of the Carson Family, friends of Eve Carson here in Athens, on behalf of the University of North Carolina, I want to thank you for sharing Eve with us for almost four years. Her presence among us was a gift. We will always be grateful for that.
Eve not only became a member of our community, she lived her life in such a way as to become the very embodiment of what we call the Carolina Spirit, or the Carolina Way. She did so more profoundly that anyone I have known in my eight years as chancellor of the university.
Many times, I think she was the very pulse and heartbeat of Carolina. Eve and I often talked about the characteristics that make UNC such a special place—what she loved to call “the Carolina way.”
For those of you who are not part of our community, let me try to define this term for you. And, in defining it, I will be describing Eve Carson, because, in my mind, Eve Carson and “the Carolina Way” became synonymous.
Eve and I used to talk about this — how to describe this special culture? Once, at Freshman Camp, where Eve served as a counselor, I came up with the phrase “excellence with a heart.” Eve really liked that, and she began to use it.
As I think about it, that phrase also described Eve. She had a high standard of excellence. That was already in evidence here at Clark Central High School; it propelled her to Chapel Hill with a Morehead Scholarship, a place in the UNC Honors Program, and Phi Beta Kappa. She had the excellence, for sure.
But she also had the heart. A big heart. And it is the combination of these two that we felt were at the core of our student culture—a commitment to others, a commitment of service to the community, to the state, and indeed to the world; a commitment to social justice, to fair play and equal opportunity for all; for the environment; for access to health care and affordable education. Eve cared about all these things, and more than caring, she labored in these vineyards, using her Morehead summer travel to engage herself in the world, and her time on campus to work with other students, as well as faculty and staff. Eve Carson was a force of nature.
Last week on campus, with only two hours notice, over 5000 students, faculty, and staff gathered on the main campus quad to remember Eve. Each one of us there had their own private memories of their relationships with Eve and the causes and issues and commitments that they shared together.
Our students laid flowers in a temporary memorial to Eve on campus, and they inscribed their personal memories on big cubes next to the memorial. Later that same day, the students led a candle-light vigil for Eve, with music and personal remembrances.
Eve was a joyful person. Her smile was radiant. She was filled with the love of life. As I listened to our students last week, what I heard over and over was how kind and considerate she was. Eve had that rare gift of leadership— the ability to get satisfaction from the recognition and accomplishments of others. She helped others succeed.
And now she’s been taken from us suddenly in a terrible, terrible act of violence, which none of us understands. We simply can’t fathom this kind of violent act that’s so foreign to our culture and our community.
I told our students last week that now it is our struggle to come to grips with the reality of this event. And so we must go through a period of grieving and accepting this reality. I told them that it is OK to cry, to be filled with grief. But I also told them, that we will get through this by living out the Carolina spirit by embracing each other, consoling each other. Ultimately, we will honor Eve Carson by becoming the university that she envisioned when she talked about “the Carolina Way.”
Eve Carson was truly a gift to Chapel Hill and the Carolina community. We are a more caring, more committed, more compassionate, and more joyful university for her having been a part of us. We are eternally grateful for this gift.
Thanks be to God.