The NCSSM-Durham Class of 2024. (photo credit: Bryan Gilmer)

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NCSSM-Durham honors 43rd graduating class

On Saturday, May 25, the 43rd graduating class of NCSSM-Durham officially joined the ranks of Unicorn alumni when nearly 320 dark-blue robed students in the Class of 2024 turned their tassels in an outdoor ceremony beneath the broad-canopied oaks of NCSSM-Durham’s Watts Lawn. 

Though the graduation unfolded mid-morning, students and families were already fanning their faces to ward off the rising late-spring warmth by the time a parade of speakers rose from their seats on the graduation platform to offer words of greeting and encouragement. One of them was Lucia Paulsen, a senior from Matthews who was chosen to deliver the student address through an open and competitive call for speeches. She spoke of the unexpected ways her experiences on and off campus all seemed to complement and inform each other and her understanding of self and community.

“I think it’s exactly that entanglement [of experiences], those inextricable ties, which bind us together now, as they will continue to bind us to past and future classes,” she said. “It’s in the minutiae of life here, the afternoons on Bryan lawn, the Saturday-morning farmer’s market runs, those beloved neighborhood walks, that the true culture and community of NCSSM can be found. I think the ability to embrace those details is one of the most beautiful things this school could have ever offered us.

“The question now, though, is what do we make of all these connections, these stories of our time here?” Lucia continued. “How do we endeavor to carry this community with us into the rest of our lives? Today, we become part of the generations who came before, having left our own impressions on this school, and each other . . . we must now begin to discover who we are.”

Lucia Paulsen, a senior from Matthews, delivers the Class of 2024 student address. (photo credit: Bryan Gilmer)

Adam Falk, a member of NCSSM’s second graduating class in 1983, Vice Chair of NCSSM’s Board of Trustees, and President of the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, returned to Durham to deliver the keynote address. He shared with students the course of his professional life since he left Durham more than 40 years earlier to emphasize a point that in many ways echoed Lucia’s.

“Starting today, each of you will follow your own path from here,” he said, encouraging the graduates to be open to life’s possibilities. “What will it look like? I truly hope that, at some level, you don’t really know, or at least that you understand that whatever plans you may have made, your actual path will likely wind, and turn, and change, and branch in directions you can’t imagine now. . . .It’s great to make plans, of course, but if you believe too much that you have to stick to them, you’ll miss the unexpected new possibilities that come up in all our lives. And you may miss out on becoming the person you’re actually meant to be.” 

Dr. Todd Roberts, NCSSM’s chancellor, presented nearly 320 diplomas to NCSSM-Durham’s 43rd graduating class. (photo credit: Bryan Gilmer)

Following Falk’s speech, row after row of smiling seniors made their way from their seats on the lawn to cross the stage and receive their diploma from NCSSM administrators. Those who went first had the privilege of watching the rest of the ceremony with some measure of final relief, while those who went last sat with growing anticipation over their turn.

With diplomas handed out and remarks complete, NCSSM’s chancellor, Dr. Todd Roberts, stepped to the podium for his final chance to offer the Class of 2024 words of wisdom and encouragement. He borrowed them from the last original installment of the wise and funny newspaper comic, Calvin and Hobbes.

“In that final comic strip and last conversation between Calvin and Hobbes, a fresh snowfall has blanketed the ground and the trees,” Roberts said. “Amazed by the sight, Hobbes hefts his sled and says, Everything familiar has disappeared! The world looks brand new! It’s like having a big, white sheet of paper to draw on!’

“Calvin responds, ‘It’s a magical world, Hobbes ol’ buddy. Let’s go exploring!’

“While we have no snow on the ground on this warm, late spring day, the world ahead is brand new and will be magical for you,” Roberts added. “You have a big white sheet of paper to draw on, so in the many days full of possibilities you have ahead, I hope that each of you will explore with curiosity and hope, and find great joy in the things you do, making the most of the ordinary and finding your extraordinary.”

Watch a recording of the ceremony. View more photos of Commencement.