Though all of the UNC students who knew Eve Carson personally have now graduated, her loss on March 5, 2008 continues to be felt deeply throughout the University and Chapel Hill communities, and the memory of her life remains a permanent inspiration to current and future generations of Tar Heels. Through her actions, her accomplishments, and the strength of her character, Eve made an impact on the lives of literally thousands of people—virtually all of whom considered her their friend and her death a grave personal loss.
Eve’s focus on others and her deep desire to make a difference in her community and the world at large—and the astonishing list of achievements that resulted from these traits—became evident early in her life. She took to heart the lessons of simplicity and social-mindedness that she was taught while growing up in Athens, Georgia. Of her youth, Eve wrote: “I have grown up in a household un-preoccupied with the grand advances of technology. . . . I have walked to and from school, I have gone to the public library to type my papers, I have learned how the seasons feel in our unheated, un-air-conditioned and drafty home, and I have become a deft dishwasher.” She was the oldest of the children in her close-knit neighborhood and thus became the “big sister” and role model for the younger ones.
At Clarke Central High School in Athens, Eve was, among other roles, vice president of the National Honor Society and a member of the school’s Academic Team. She volunteered as a “peer educator” at the Athens Area Attention Home, a safe house for abused and runaway teenagers. She served as a page in the U.S. House of Representatives after her sophomore year, and during the summers after her junior and senior years, she worked as a lab assistant in a stem-cell research laboratory at the University of Georgia. As fitting benchmarks of a luminous high school career, Eve was also elected student body president and achieved the rank of class valedictorian.
Her outstanding character and accomplishments in high school led to Eve’s selection for the prestigious Morehead-Cain Scholarship to the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, given to 50 of the top high school seniors in the nation for promise in the areas of leadership, scholarship, physical vigor, and moral force of character. At UNC, Eve continued her role as an enthusiastic and successful leader, both inside and outside the classroom. She was co-president of the Honors Program Student Executive Board; a member of Phi Beta Kappa; a member of the North Carolina Fellows leadership development program; co-chair of Nourish International (a student movement to eradicate global poverty and hunger); a science tutor in the local public schools; an orientation counselor at Freshman Camp (run by UNC’s Campus Y); and even the captain of several intramural sports teams. During her sophomore year, she spent a semester studying at the Universidad de la Habana in Havana, Cuba.
Through the Morehead-Cain Summer Enrichment Program, Eve spent her college summers in Wyoming, Ecuador, and Egypt. In Wyoming (2004) she participated in a wilderness leadership course through the National Outdoor Leadership School. In Ecuador (2005) she volunteered as a physician’s assistant to a traveling doctor in the rural countryside and worked on a coffee farm. She also taught computer skills that summer in an indigenous Siona community in the Amazon rain forest. In Egypt (2006) Eve worked with a U.S. Naval Medical Research Unit in Cairo.
Eve also had an interest in “ethical-economical” models of international development as a result of her travels in Cuba, Egypt, Ecuador, Honduras, and Canada. She took a course at UNC titled “Issues in International Development” and was particularly moved by one of the readings. She wrote that “the author asserted that while we see the capitalistic economy as constantly producing more . . . capitalism is simultaneously ‘degrading at the margins.’ Beyond even physical degradation, the writer used metaphors of faith to wonder if capitalism led to spiritual degradation. That is, for example, for every city that is revitalized and ‘booms’ in a third-world country, a rain forest and a way of life might be irreversibly destroyed.” Eve expressed the need to educate herself further in order to make herself as useful to the world as possible: “I know now that a more developed understanding of economics and finances will be essential for any work, humanitarian ideas/ideals, or value systems that I could develop in the future.”
Just as it had been in high school, Eve’s senior year at UNC was marked by her election to the office of student body president. In this position, she worked tirelessly to improve the college experiences of all UNC students, addressing a multitude of issues involving academics, extracurriculars, campus-town relationships, and community projects. She became a public face of the university that she loved, and her enthusiasm was contagious, including among the faculty and administration. In her role as SBP, Eve was universally loved and admired. People often show their true colors under pressure, and Eve, no matter how busy she was, remained upbeat, gracious, and perceptive to the needs of those around her. She seemed to have a limitless capacity for listening, for serving, for learning, and for remaining goal oriented while still having fun. She had a charming way of cajoling others to rise to her level of cheerful intensity. And she clearly relished the role of student-leader, especially because it allowed her to have close relationships with so many people and give voice to many of her fellow students’ concerns.
There was so much that Eve hoped to accomplish at UNC and beyond. At her death, she was only a month and a half away from completing her very successful term as student body president and two months away from graduating from the University with highest distinction in biology and political science. She had a 3.9 grade-point average and a job offer from a prestigious management-consulting firm. She had dreams of changing the world for the better and planned eventually to attend law school or graduate school in public health and/or public policy. Her focus was on “scientific policy”— governmental legislation and policy regarding gene therapy, embryonic stem-cell research, and nanotechnology. She wrote: “I feel that the next decade will be years of incredible complexity that could (and probably will) have long-lasting and important consequences for our country and society.”
When the news of Eve’s murder became public, the UNC campus went into a state of shock and grief. The turnout of thousands of members of the UNC community at a campuswide meeting in the afternoon and a candlelight vigil that evening—as well as the memorial service subsequently held at the Smith Center, hosted by UNC System president Erskine Bowles and other administrative and faculty leaders—attest to the respect and love everyone had for Eve. At the time, one of her fellow students said, “I thought I misheard or something because with a public icon like Eve, student body president—just someone everybody loves—you kind of make them invincible. You think nothing bad can happen to a person like that. And I just didn’t believe it.”
As further testament to the UNC community’s admiration and affection for Eve, she was posthumously awarded the prestigious Chancellor’s Award for most outstanding woman in the senior class (The Irene F. Lee Award was first given in 1955 and is presented annually to the woman in the senior class judged most outstanding in leadership, character, and scholarship.) and the General Alumni Association’s Distinguished Young Alumnus award. At the campuswide gathering on March 6, Chancellor James Moeser encouraged the assembled mourners: “Let us be the University that Eve Carson envisioned. Let us show the ‘Carolina Way’ that she lived, that she talked about.” Many remarkable initiatives emerged in the months following her death, as Eve’s Chapel Hill and Athens communities banded together to honor her memory and continue her good works.
Two merit scholarships have been established in Eve’s memory at the University of North Carolina. The first, the Eve Marie Carson Memorial Junior-Year Merit Scholarship, will further one of Eve’s own dreams: a merit scholarship given to juniors at UNC who have shown promise in the areas of academics, social justice, and leadership. More than 3,000 people have made donations totaling approximately $600,000 to the University’s Eve Marie Carson Memorial Fund, which will finance the scholarship.
The Morehead-Cain Foundation has established the second scholarship—a four-year undergraduate scholarship in memory of Eve that is designed to eventually attract a top out-of-state student to UNC each year—by giving the University a grant of approximately $400,000. The Eve Marie Carson “Carolina Way” Scholarship will help the University recruit and support outstanding students like Eve.
Friends and loved ones in Athens and elsewhere have given tens of thousands of dollars in Eve’s memory to the Foundation for Excellence in Public Education, which supports public schools in Clarke County. The funds are used to present annual Eve Carson Awards (for humanitarian spirit) to students at the county’s 21 schools, as well as competitive $1,500 classroom awards for teachers, administrators, coaches, or club directors. The classroom awards fund creative, experiential opportunities for students, such as field trips or visiting speakers.
Chase Street Elementary School and Barrow Elementary School in Athens have established service-learning awards in Eve’s honor, and students at the University of Georgia have founded a chapter of Nourish International. In November 2008 at UNC, Pi Beta Phi and Phi Delta Theta (two Greek organizations on campus) sponsored the first Eve Carson Memorial 5K for Education, which attracted more than 2,000 registrants and raised more than $23,000 for the Eve Carson Fund and other educational causes. The Eve 5K continues to attract thousands of participants each year, making it the campus’s largest 5K fund-raiser, raising more than $25,000 each year for the Memorial Fund. In October 2009, the Franklin Street Yoga Center, where Eve was a regular attendee, established an event called the “Eve Ball”, a costume ball occurring near Halloween each year. The event brings students and community members together for a fun night of costumes, desserts and dancing. UNC’s Young Alumni group in Atlanta has also begun hosting an 80’s dance party each June in memory of Eve. Numerous other events have also been held in Eve’s honor by organizations across North Carolina.
During its 36th Session (2007–2008), the 16-campus University of North Carolina Association of Student Governments established the Eve Marie Carson Servant Leader Award, “bestowed annually on one or more students” in the UNC system who “exemplify the characteristics of a servant leader.”
In the fall of 2010, the UNC Distinguished Speakers Series, which Eve had established during her term as student body president, was renamed the Eve Marie Carson Lecture Series. Speakers have included the late Elizabeth Edwards, Greg Mortensen (Three Cups of Tea), Fatou Bensouda of the International Criminal Court, MSNBC’s Mika Brzezinski, and former White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs.
There have also been several striking and symbolic physical memorials to Eve, such as tree plantings and park bench projects at various spots in Athens and Chapel Hill. Two memorial gardens have been established on the UNC campus. One, in her beloved Arboretum, features a tree that will glow with flaming red foliage each fall. The other, in honor of Eve and all students who lose their lives while at the University, was dedicated in 2009 and rests near the Campus Y, where Eve spent so much of her time, and overlooks the campus’s main quad so students can meet and watch their fellow students enjoying Carolina’s beautiful weather. The memorial features a blue stone seat and Georgia marble wall inscribed with a quote from Eve that reads, “Learn from every single being, experience, and moment. What a joy it is to search for lessons and goodness and enthusiasm in others.” Artistic endeavors honoring Eve have included a painting/poster by Brenda Behr, assorted concerts, and the “Belie-v-e” music CD produced in Athens. Twenty-five DVDs of the stirring film Darius Goes West were purchased anonymously and given to university student body presidents across the country.
These are just some of the ways that people have been inspired to commemorate Eve Carson’s causes and values. Her death undoubtedly left a void that will never be adequately filled; at the same time, every member of the Carolina Family has the opportunity to carry on in her absence and help create the world that she strived for and believed in—one motivated by a desire for justice, a warm camaraderie, and the hope for better things ahead. For many of us—friends of Carolina and thus friends of Eve—this lifelong and gratifying journey will begin right here in Chapel Hill, where Eve’s spirit remains alive and well.
—Megan M. Mazzocchi
Links to more about Eve:
Daily Tar Heel articles about Eve:
- Eve Carson’s case is closed, but her legacy lives on through the Carolina Way (January 7, 2012)
- Let Eve’s memory inspire your best (November 16, 2011)
- Carson’s legacy lives on through acts that ‘speak for themselves’ (March 5, 2010)
- Funeral honors Carson (March 17, 2008)
- Carson goals evolve with term (February 27, 2008)
- Delegation a trademark of Carson administration (February 26, 2008)
- Carson goes to bat for students (February 25, 2008)
- Carson consoles in tragedy (February 23, 2007)
- Carson coasts to SBP (February 21, 2007)