Eve Carson was an extraordinary student and a person who could have done anything in life, and in recent weeks, the University of North Carolina student body president had been reaching out to friends and mentors as she tried to decide what she wanted to do when she graduated in May.
“She had an incredible future, and that’s all been cut off,” James Moeser, the university’s chancellor, told TODAY’s Meredith Vieira on Friday.
Two days earlier, Carson’s body had been found on the side of a road in an upscale Chapel Hill, N.C., neighborhood. She had been shot several times, including in the head, in what police are calling an apparently random crime.
As word of the shooting flashed through the university community, Carson’s boundless hopes became the campus’ collective grief. On Thursday night, on just a few hours notice, some 5,000 students had packed the school’s Polk Place quad to pay tribute to their classmate and leader.
“Eve Carson personified the Carolina spirit,” Moeser told them.
The valedictorian and student body president at her high school in Athens, Ga., Carson had come to Chapel Hill as a pre-med student. Brilliant and beautiful, she studied abroad, volunteered for community service, and was named a Morehead-Cain Scholar and a member of the Phi Beta Kappa honor fraternity.
“This has had a huge impact on this campus because Eve was beloved,” Moeser told Vieira. “You don’t get to be student body president without being liked by a lot of people. Eve was extraordinary because she was involved with issues across this campus and with groups of students who loved her. She was very selfless ... So processing that grief on this campus, helping our students come to grip with this reality, is a big task, and we started that process yesterday.”
Vieira asked him about “Carolina spirit,” and Moeser said it expresses “the heart of the university, our real values, our commitment to access and affordability, our commitment to diversity, the environment, selflessness and, more than anything else, public service. Eve personified all of those values and she talked about it.”
Lately, with graduation looming, Carson had been rethinking her intention to become a doctor. One of the people she called to talk about her future was Seth Dearmin, a former student body president of the university and her friend.
“It was a conversation about life in general,” he told Vieira. “About where I was, where she was, where she wanted to go and how she was going to get there.”
He said the talk had taken place about a week ago. He got the impression she had been talking to many people, weighing her options and her future.
“I think she was reaching out to a lot of people about career advice or general advice about what she was going to do with herself once she graduated,” he said. “Eve had an offer to go to work in New York for a management consulting firm, but was thinking about maybe taking a year off in between to do some traveling. There were a lot of places in the world where she had a chance to go.”
Moeser said he had recently had a similar conversation with Carson.
“She came as a pre-med student,” the chancellor said. “Now, I think she was having real second thoughts about what she really wanted to do with her life. She had obviously many opportunities, and I think making the right call was not an easy one for her.”
And dealing with the loss is not an easy task for the university community. Talking about it brought Moeser back to the “Carolina spirit.”
“This is a place where students really do bond to the university and to themselves — an incredible sense of community here,” he told Vieira. “I told them yesterday, we can only get through this by embracing each other, by embodying really the way she lived her life, and I think that’s the way we will do it.”