Dear Class of 2017,
You made it! You are about to head into Kenan Stadium for the last time ever as a student. You’ll file into your seats in Carolina blue caps and gowns, while many proud parents watch with tears in their eyes. You’ll listen to Chancellor Folt and other honorary dignitaries. Former alumnus and commencement speaker Brooke Baldwin will impart words of wisdom on each of you. And finally, you’ll put your arms around your friends, roommates, and fellow Tar Heels as you sing “Hark the Sound” one final time before walking out as the newest alumni of the University of North Carolina.
Leaving this place will be extremely sad, as you just finished up the best four (in my case more than that because I loved UNC so much, or at least that is what I told my parents) years of your life. I hope that you took it all in and enjoyed every second of it, as you just finished a year of “lasts,” or final moments, at UNC as an undergrad: your “last” drink from the Old Well, your “last” study session at Davis or the Undergrad Library, your “last” Blue Cup at He’s Not Here, your “last” trip on one of those pesky bricks, or your “last” home game at the Smith Center.
However, now that you are a UNC alum, you will get to experience a brand new set of “firsts”: your “first” (of many) phone calls from the University asking for a donation, your “first” Homecoming football game as an alum, your “first” wedding that you will attend of a former suite-mate (who will undoubtedly have all the groomsmen/bridesmaids wearing Carolina blue in some form or fashion), and your “first” time taking your kids (who you will have already brainwashed into loving the Heels) to a basketball game.
As you spread out far and wide across the globe, know that you are not very far from other members of the Tar Heel family. You will run into fellow alums along the way, some you may just give a head nod and a “Go Heels,” acknowledging your shared love for UNC. Others you may sit down and share stories of why your time in Chapel Hill was special: stories of those late night rides on the P2P Bus, or that crazy thing your suite mate in Hinton James did, or that time you jumped over a bon fire on Franklin Street after a win against Duke, or that creative costume you wore on Halloween your Freshman year.
Now, just like any family, there will be arguments and fights amongst us. We’ll argue over which chicken and cheddar biscuit is the best between Time-Out and Sunrise Biscuit Kitchen, whether “the quad” or “the pit” was better for studying/people-watching, who was the best player on your intramural softball team, and (everyone’s favorite) why Roy Williams didn’t use his time-outs when we thought he should. Despite our differences in opinion, we all still share the same love for UNC.
As the newest members of the Carolina family, it is also your responsibility to pass along your love of UNC (some may say brain wash) to the next generation of Tar Heels. Wear your Carolina blue shirts, dresses, and ties, share your stories and memories from your time in Chapel Hill, and visit often with friends/family to show them why this university/town holds such a special place in each of our hearts.
I know that you have gotten a lot of advice today, from a lot of smarter people than me, but let me leave you with this: never cease hating Duke, brag to co-workers about why UNC is better than where they went to school, travel (no matter the distance) and visit old roommates/suite-mates, plan annual trips or vacations with your UNC friends, watch a game with your local Carolina Club, take your family out to eat at your favorite Franklin Street bar/restaurant, deck out your newborn in Carolina blue, or become a writer for Tar Heel Blog, so you can write stories about UNC and share with others about your time in Chapel Hill.
So, wherever the road leads you on this journey, no matter the season or the distance you have traveled, you will always be welcome back home in Chapel Hill with friends and other alumni welcoming you with open arms. Congratulations Class of 2017, and welcome to the family!
Class of 2005