The ceremony: UNC-Chapel Hill, 9:30 a.m. Sunday, Kenan Stadium, Chapel Hill
Number of graduates: 5,780: 3,597 with bachelor's, 1,278 master's, 307 doctoral and 598 professional degrees
Weather: Early morning rains held off during the ceremony. Just as graduates moved their tassels, the sun peeked out from behind the clouds and shone on the stands where graduates were assembled.
Graduates distinguished themselves with colorful umbrellas and balloons.
Commencement speaker: Edward O. Wilson, university research professor emeritus, Harvard University, honorary curator in entomology, Museum of Comparative Zoology.
What he said: Wilson framed his remarks with some of the big questions that confound scholars in religion, philosophy and science: "Who are we?" "Where did we come from?" "Where are we going?" Wilson said students need to be aware of how the world is changing, and asked graduates to preserve the earth and fight against threats to country's natural resources and environment.
"The rate of species extinct is about 1,000 times higher than before humans entered the scene. That loss of so much life is going to inflict a heavy price on you," he said. "The torch is passed to you. Here, please take the torch in this fundamental time."
He encouraged students to continue to learn and seek advanced degrees so they can continue to better society.
"We need as many highly educated citizens in this faltering country as we can get," he said. "... Go forth. Think. Save the world."
Thanks, mom: It was Mother's Day, and Chancellor Holden Thorp asked graduates to stand to thank their mothers.
With signs, hoots and whistles graduates stood; clapping and blowing kisses to mothers sitting in the bleachers around them.
A Carolina family: Elizabeth Deane, president of the class of 2011, reminisced on the good times her class enjoyed and thanked her classmates for always stepping up to serve the community and the world especially after the disasters in Japan and Haiti.
"We did not give in to defeat," she said. "We stood together through struggles and failures. And for that, we are a family. We have left an indelible mark on this great institution, and it has marked us."
"Made something": For first-generation college student Brittany Travis, her Carolina degree is a gateway.
"I feel like I've been made something," she said. "I've had this experience to pass down. I feel special."
The 22-year-old Greensboro native studied psychology and plans to pursue a Ph.D. in child psychology at The City College of New York in the fall.
"I can't believe I'm a grown-up," she said. "But Carolina prepared me well."
Tears: There were many. Groups of graduates cried after the ceremony. Brittany Morgan of Seagrove was one of them.
"It means a lot to be able to say I went to Carolina," said Morgan, 21, who studied psychology and plans to pursue a master's degree in school counseling. "... There's just something about it. It has an atmosphere you can't find anywhere else."
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