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Thousands of Triangle students graduate

Posted May 10, 2009

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— Some big names – talk show host Oprah Winfrey, Nobel Peace Prize winner Archbishop Desmond Tutu and state Supreme Court Chief Justice Sarah Parker – headlined at college graduations around the Triangle Sunday.

Oprah, Desmond Tutu give commencement speechs Desmond Tutu, Oprah give commencement speechs

Winfrey appeared at Duke University's Wallace Wade Stadium to cheers and a shout of "We love you, Oprah!"

“With a big name attached, it’s always a little bit more memorable. People are a little bit more excited,” said Brian Arnold, Duke graduate.

Pretending to be interrupted by a cell phone call, student speaker Robert Jones said, “Ms. Winfrey, apparently your limousine is double-parked in front of the chapel. Duke Parking wanted me to let you know they won’t release your honorary degree until you pay your parking fine.”

Duke President Richard H. Brodhead awarded an honorary doctorate of humane letters to Winfrey, citing her work as both an entertainer and a philanthropist. Her godson, William Bumpus, was among the graduating seniors.

Winfrey urged the graduates to seek success in helping others.

"You really haven't completed that circle of success unless you have helped someone else move forward," Winfrey said. "How can I help somebody move to higher ground? That is success. That's it. That's why we're all alive."

Tutu delivered the commencement address to University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill graduates at Kenan Stadium.

“Go on dreaming. Go on being the idealistic people you are,” Tutu told the crowd.

Tutu won the Nobel Prize for peace in 1984 for his work to resolve apartheid in South Africa.

“A lot of people admire and feel deserving of having a speaker of that caliber,” said Nate Crosby, a UNC graduate.

“It’s nice that we got someone so prestigious to come speak to us,” said Jessie Spears, UNC graduate.

Among Sunday's UNC graduates was Dillard Griffin. The 92-year-old Durham County man enrolled at UNC in 1934 and was on track to graduate four years later. Fate then intervened and led him in another direction. But recently, Griffen went back to UNC and was awarded his business degree Sunday.

Parker, the longest-serving member of the state Supreme Court and its third female chief justice, spoke to about 2,900 people at Meredith College's graduation. She is an alumna of Meredith and UNC's law school and a former Peace Corps volunteer.

Parker urged the 450 graduates at the all-women's college to “live with integrity and perseverance, look up, laugh, love and lift someone less fortunate so that you will not have lived in vain.”

Fort the fist time in school history, UNC streamed its commencement ceremony live on the Web, as well on CNN.com and Oprah.com. Duke also live-streamed its graduation ceremony.

Marc H. Morial, president and CEO of the National Urban League, will speak at North Carolina Central University's graduation next Saturday. The ceremony will start at 8 a.m. in O'Kelly-Riddick Stadium.

Louisburg College, North Carolina State University, Peace College, Shaw University and St. Augustine's College held their graduation ceremonies this past Saturday.


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