`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.”
— Eve Carson ’08
At halftime of the final home men’s basketball game of this season, the parents of Jason Ray — who was known to Carolina fans as Rameses — stood at center court. The first award in memory of their son, tragically killed by a motorist near the site of Carolina’s 2007 NCAA tournament game, was being presented to a deserving cheerleader. Among those looking on, dressed in her high school prom dress and her face aglow in Carolina blue paint, was Eve Marie Carson ’08, one of many seniors attending their last game in the Smith Center as a student. A few hours later, Eve was brutally murdered. Her family and our University community continue to mourn her passing.
As student body president, Eve was a member of the GAA Board of Directors, serving on our board’s enrichment and long range planning committees. Like many, I found that a lunch with Eve at The Carolina Club or a casual walk across Polk Place invariably resulted in a communal experience. She was approachable by everyone, any time and any place, and her enthusiasm was infectious. After the GAA debuted its new video, Carolina Is … , at our fall board meeting, Eve e-mailed me to report: “I thought the video was so wonderful — I had teared up within the first couple of minutes of the piece!”
Eve talked passionately about “the Carolina Way,” and she engaged scores of others in these discussions. Friends recalled her favorite motto: “Study hard/work hard; play hard; keep an open mind; take pride in yourself, in your school, in what you produce and the way you help others; if you make mistakes, make sure you learn from them; and never give up — stay strong to the finish.”
At the vigils on Polk Place and in the Pit, and at the “Celebration of Eve Carson” in the Smith Center, close friends recalled her with profoundly moving stories and illuminating descriptions — “late-night dancer, motivator, friend, confidant, intimidating wide receiver on Team Friendship, streaker, roller-blader, scholar, procrastinator, sleep deprived, driven, exciting and excited, listener, leader … .”
Perhaps because Eve never seemed impressed with her remarkable list of accomplishments, most of those who shared their reflections did so without reciting her notable achievements. Yet this special young woman was so magnetic that even those she never met were drawn to her. In the days following her murder, more than 1,000 present and former student government leaders crafted a message online that they later sent to her parents, and many former student body presidents came together online. Twenty or more participated on a conference call, discussing how they wanted to participate in the Celebration of Eve Carson event and what together they would do as a memorial. At least 15 former student body presidents attended that gathering.
We can take comfort in knowing that throughout this tragedy, Carolina’s students, trustees, staff, faculty and alumni responded as a community, reflecting sensitivity, compassion, concern and generosity. In our individual grief, we found consolation that our sorrow was shared by countless others. We are reassured that ours is a community that reflects shared values that make us proud and grateful to be a part of Carolina.
Eve Carson will not be forgotten. Her engaging curiosity, enthusiasm for life and friends, and her passion and respect for Carolina created a charisma that was magnetic. Eve cared about everything and everyone — issues and causes that captured her and those that had not yet found her; people she met as a child and had known her whole life; those she’d met at Carolina or around the world; and people she’d not yet met but was anxious to meet. Most of all, I’ll always recall that warm, engaging smile and be forever grateful that, like so many others, Eve Carson came into my life.
Sadly, Eve will not be among her classmates gathered in Kenan Stadium for Commencement, and yet each of us will feel her presence, comforted that Eve’s Carolina Way lives on.
We’ll think of her whenever we hear James Taylor’s concluding lines of Carolina In My Mind … “Say nice things about me … carry on without me … I’m gone, yes, I’m gone.”
Yours at Carolina,
Douglas S. Dibbert ’70