Chapel Hill, N.C. — A sea of Carolina blue filled the Dean E. Smith Center Tuesday afternoon when students, faculty and administrators remembered the life of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill student body president, whose life was cut short earlier this month.
Eve Marie Carson's family and hometown friends were among an estimated 10,000 people at the hour-long service marked with tears, hugs and laughter – a service to help begin the healing of a university community still reeling from an untimely loss.
"Today, we are still in mourning, but we want to celebrate this special person we knew and loved," UNC Chancellor James Moeser said. "(Eve) was compassionate and inclusive in her dealings with everyone. She embodied the values of Carolina, which include fairness, justice and tolerance."
The 22-year-old senior from Athens, Ga., was shot to death near the UNC campus March 5 in what Chapel Hill police have called a random act. Two men face murder charges in her death.
But Tuesday's memorial service – with comments by students and university leaders, music from the UNC Gospel Choir and UNC band – was not to focus on Carson's death, but to celebrate her life and legacy – one of an inquisitive, outgoing young woman full of life, compassion and fun.
"Right now, in most of our minds, Eve is Carolina," her former roommate, Aaron Charlop-Powers, said. "She was awesome, no doubt. But I stand here before you, not because of a title she earned or (her) volunteer work abroad, but simply as a friend who misses her and misses her imperfections."
Her room was always a mess, she loved to dance, have late-night dance parties, and she freaked out about mid-terms. She took afternoon catnaps with book in-hand and worried about what to wear, Charlop-Powers said, drawing laughs from the somber, quiet audience.
"She was a terrible driver. She was always late," he said. "Whether it was hers or not, Eve always ate the ice cream in the freezer, leaving just one bite that she didn't want to finish – because it was, after all, 'yours.'"
"It is these quirks, trademarks, mannerisms and details that complete the beauty of her person and make us miss her so," he added.
Colleagues and friends remembered Carson's ability to make friends instantly. "She would say, 'I have friends, and I have friends that I have not met,'" said Katie Sue Zellner, an executive board member of UNC's student government..
"Eve Carson made me feel special," said Erskine Bowles, who worked with Carson in his capacity as president of the University of North Carolina system. "She made me feel like I was important to her."
The daughter of Bob Carson and Teresa Bethke, Carson attended Clarke Central High School in Athens and was president of the high school's student body. She was valedictorian when she graduated in the spring of 2004 and was "one of the young women who could change the world," her high school principal said.
"Eve was just the most wonderful young woman you would ever want to know," principal Maxine Easom said. "She was brilliant. She was absolutely beautiful. Everything she did was aimed at helping other people."
She entered UNC in August 2004 and worked her way to student body president last year, defeating her opponent in one of the highest-turnout runoff elections at the university.
Carson wore a number of different hats as a student and a student leader.
A double major in biology and political science, she was a North Carolina Fellow and a member of the Phi Beta Kappa Society. As a prestigious Morehead-Cain scholar, she spent her summers volunteering and working overseas in Ecuador, Egypt and Ghana.
She was also a tutor at Githens Middle School in Durham her junior year, and in 2005, she was an assistant coach with a local chapter of Girls on the Run.
Carson also loved going to Franklin Street and playing intramural sports, she wrote in a letter to the editor in the Aug. 27, 2007, issue of The Daily Tar Heel, the student newspaper.
As a student leader, she served on numerous boards and committees – too many to list. Among them: the UNC-Chapel Hill Board of Trustees, Carolina Leadership Development Board; Honors Program Student Executive Board, where she was co-president; the Chancellor Search Committee and the Athletic Council.
And she left a legacy of hard work, an open mind and never giving up and staying strong to the finish, said Seth Dearmin, a former student body president who met Carson during her freshman year.
"Let us, today, shed our last moments of silence for Eve. For though she led her life fully, she was not able to lead a full life," Dearmin said Tuesday. "From this point forward, we must speak loudly and act boldly. Eve's mantle has been passed to us."
In a statement through UNC Dean of Students Melissa Exum, Carson's father urged students should find solutions for the greatest needs of the world, including violence, prejudice and inequity.
"In the midst of his grief, Mr. Carson finds hope – hope that Eve's generation will solve some of the most the pressing problems of our time," Exum said. "I see a stunningly beautiful convergence of talent and caring in this generation."