Eve Carson ’08 embodied the Carolina spirit. With her exuberance and kindness, her leadership and service, her intelligence and energy, she was, as former Chancellor James Moeser has said, “truly a gift to Chapel Hill and the Carolina community.” All who knew her or knew of her marveled at what she accomplished while she was here. Her memory continues to inspire students, faculty, alumni and others in the UNC family to carry on her legacy of commitment and caring.
Eve came to Carolina from Athens, Georgia, as a Morehead Scholar, her remarkable abilities and public-spiritedness already abundantly clear. As a high school student, she volunteered at a safe house for abused and runaway teenagers, worked as a page in the U.S. House of Representatives, helped conduct stem-cell research at the University of Georgia, served as student body president and earned the rank of class valedictorian.
Once here, she immediately poured herself not only into academics — she majored in political science and biology — but into service. She was freshman volunteer coordinator and later co-chair of the anti-poverty nonprofit group Nourish International. Joel Thomas ’06, who now directs Nourish, has said that Eve’s “radiant character engaged students in our cause and infused the organization with boundless energy. When Nourish encountered challenges along the road, Eve always had something thoughtful to say and a meaningful way to contribute.”
Inspiring engagement, communicating enthusiasm, making thoughtful contributions — that was what Eve did. She got Frank Porter Graham Elementary School children excited about science, kept the Durham middle schoolers she tutored interested in learning, and helped young girls build character through the Girls on the Run program. She devoted summers to work and service, among other efforts assisting a rural doctor in Ecuador and teaching computer skills in the Amazon rainforest.
Here on campus, she earned Phi Beta Kappa honors, captained intramural sports teams, served as a counselor at the Campus Y’s Freshman Camp, and brought her vibrant, positive presence to numerous boards and committees. She worked to improve the Honors Program and to recognize outstanding teaching and scholarship. As student body president, she conveyed the concerns of her fellow undergraduates to the University’s Board of Trustees and to the Chapel Hill mayor and town council. Always, she considered issues carefully and encouraged others to bring their talents and perspectives to the table.
Sincere, genuine, chronically over-committed, funny, warm — these are a few of the ways the campus community remembered her when the terrible news came of her death. Five thousand gathered within hours on Polk Place, more assembled with candles at the Pit that night, and 10,000 later came to the Smith Center to honor her. These numbers speak to just how many on campus felt a personal connection to Eve, how many she touched, how many loved her.
Out of that collective shock and grief came a determination to honor her spirit. “Eve’s mantle has been passed to us,” former student body president Seth Dearmin ’06 said at the time. Eve gave Carolina her unabashed enthusiasm and the full benefit of her thoughtful engagement, and through her example she remains a catalyst for positive change.
The campus has found several ways to keep the memory of her presence nearby. A painting depicts the sentiment so many students feel and Eve expressed so well: “I love UNC. I love the quad in the spring and the arboretum in the fall. I love the Pit on a sunny day and Graham Memorial Lounge on a rainy one. I love Roy all the time. But what makes UNC truly special is not our beautiful campus, our distinguished reputation or even our basketball team. It’s us — the student body — who make UNC what it is.”
The North Carolina Fellows, the leadership development program in which she honed her considerable abilities, has planted a black gum tree in her honor in the Arboretum. Near the Campus Y, the Eve Marie Carson Garden will inspire students to remember and reflect.
The Morehead-Cain Foundation has provided funds to start a four-year scholarship for an out-of-state student in her honor. In addition, many on campus have combined forces to see through a dream of Eve’s. As student body president, she worked toward creating a new scholarship to be awarded to a junior who shows promise in academics, social justice and leadership. That has come to fruition as the Eve Marie Carson Memorial Junior-Year Merit Scholarship. So far, nearly 2,000 people have given to the fund that will finance the scholarship, some through a senior class gift, and some through last November’s Eve Carson Memorial 5K. Phi Delta Theta fraternity and Pi Beta Phi sorority organized the run, and Students for the Carolina Way, a new campus organization inspired by Eve’s memory, sponsored it.
“The Carolina Way” was a phrase Eve used often to describe the mix of academic excellence and commitment to service that sets UNC apart. She showed the University community what that phrase really means. Eve Carson continues to inspire us to try to emulate her example, to set lofty goals and to work toward them with something like the compassion, dedication, intelligence and good humor she brought us.