On a spring Sunday, graduates blossom

At Duke, UNC and Meredith, students set out on fresh adventures

May 11, 2009 

New college graduates emerged from their cloistered environs Sunday at Duke, UNC-Chapel Hill and Meredith College.

Guest speakers brought star power to the Triangle. Duke's commencement speaker was television personality Oprah Winfrey, while Archbishop Desmond Tutu, winner of the 1984 Nobel Peace Prize, spoke down the road at UNC Chapel Hill.

At Meredith, the speech was given by Sarah Parker, chief justice of the N.C. Supreme Court who attended the Raleigh college before getting her undergraduate and law degrees at UNC-CH.

While Duke and UNC-CH are rivals, they are also intertwined in many ways. In Chapel Hill, Chancellor Holden Thorp presided over his first commencement; down the road in Durham, his predecessor, James Moeser, received an honorary degree from Duke, recognized for his contributions to higher education.

The nation's continuing tussle with the swine flu was evident in small ways Sunday. At UNC-CH, officials had requested ahead of time that folks with flu-like symptoms not attend the gathering, which drew at least 30,000 to Kenan Stadium.

At Duke, officials distributed hand sanitizer.

But this spring day was for freshly minted graduates, their families, friends and loved ones. Perhaps Justina Malloy, a UNC-CH grad from Greensboro best captured the mixed emotions of the moment.

"When I realize I'm not coming back in the fall, that's when it will hit me," she said. "It's bittersweet." See more graduation coverage on Page 4B.

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