For more than two centuries, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill has prepared the state’s lawyers, business leaders, journalists, teachers, politicians and doctors.
But the University experience, Gov. Roy Cooper said, does more than just prepare students for the workforce.
“This University is second to none in preparing students to make a career and to make a living,” he said. “But what is so special about this place is that it encourages students to discover what it is to make a life. A life of purpose.”
As Carolina celebrated its 224th birthday on Oct. 12, Cooper urged the Carolina community not to forget that mission.
“May we here, on this special day, rededicate ourselves to making sure this University not only leads these students to a vocation, but to discover their calling,” he said. “And to make sure we ourselves live our own lives of purpose.”
Cooper was the keynote speaker at this year’s University Day celebration, which marks the laying of the cornerstone of Old East in 1793. Chancellor Carol L. Folt presided over the ceremony at Memorial Hall and told the students, faculty and staff members in the audience that the day is a time to reflect on the University’s past and celebrate its future.
“University Day is the right day to think about what makes Carolina magical for all of us,” Folt said. “It’s a time for us to think about the people of Carolina and how we must work together to create a Carolina that we love, a Carolina that embraces change and a Carolina that we can become.”
During the ceremony, several members of the Carolina community spoke about the University’s role in the state and the impact it makes on the lives of North Carolinians. The University’s founding principles of light and liberty have rooted themselves throughout the state, UNC System President Margaret Spellings said. The seeds first planted in Chapel Hill, she said, have created “one of the finest public university systems anywhere in the world.
“The vision first articulated on this quiet hillside have been reborn again and again in new places, in new eras and answer to the ever-changing needs of each generation of Tar Heels,” she said.
To recognize those centuries of contributions of students, faculty and staff, Folt announced the naming of several need-based scholarship funds that will honor “Bridge Builders” who have helped Carolina become a more inclusive, unified community throughout the years.
“History always comes down to people — who they are and what they care about,” Folt said.
In his speech, Cooper discussed his time as a Carolina student. He earned both a bachelors and law degree in Chapel Hill. Much of his optimism in the future of the state, Cooper said, is founded in his experience at UNC-Chapel Hill and on what the University has stood for during its 224 years.
“Throughout our history, we in North Carolina have believed in the power of a public education,” he said. “Reverence for education flows through our blood stream. It’s not only required in our state constitution, it is in our DNA as North Carolinians. It is part who we are.”
The University has accomplished much since its founding, but there is more work to do, Cooper said.
With the support of the state, Cooper said, he hopes that Carolina will continue to unravel medical mysteries, take on some of the world’s biggest problems and lead students to lives with purpose.
“We know that this place is special. And I’m optimistic because the University experience leads us toward solving the world’s more nettlesome challenges,” Cooper said, noting the University’s vast contributions. For example, he cited the $10 billion in revenue that businesses founded by Carolina faculty and students generate and the more than 1.9 million hours of public service that Carolina students, faculty and staff engage in each year.
“This is a record that should make us proud. And we want more of it, but we cannot sit back and expect it to keep on happening if we do not insist on significant investment in this University.”
Watch the University Day ceremony on UNC-Chapel Hill’s YouTube channel.
By Brandon Bieltz, University Communications