A message of hope and teamwork from high-profile commencement speakers for the Class of 2021

It is graduation weekend for both UNC-Chapel Hill and NC State University. A year ago, it was improbable to think of new graduates gathering together to celebrate their accomplishments in the early days of the pandemic.

But this spring, the promise of vaccines and the hard work of scientists and medical professionals make such happy gatherings possible as the state continues to watch vaccination rates rise.

At Chapel Hill, this weekend’s Commencement address will be virtually delivered by UNC alum Kizzmekia Corbett. Seven years ago, Corbett earned her Ph.D. in microbiology and immunology from the UNC School of Medicine.

Her interest in rapid vaccine development led to a fellowship at the NIH’s Vaccine Research Center, where she studied coronaviruses.

Of course, she is best known these days for the work her team did in developing a COVID-19 vaccine in partnership with Moderna.

“I am a virologist because I studied virology at UNC, at one of the world’s most renowned viral immunology enterprises,” she said. “That level of training is what prepared me for this moment.”

Corbett will be joined in her virtual address by Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.

Click below to hear Corbett reflect on her time at Carolina in this video produced by UNC-Chapel Hill.

UNC-Chapel Hill will hold multiple in-person, ticketed ceremonies Friday through Sunday in Kenan Stadium. Graduates will be grouped by their school or department in the College of Arts & Sciences so that classmates can celebrate together.

In Raleigh, Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson, one of the top passers in NC State history, returns to Carter-Finley Stadium to serve as commencement speaker during NC State’s spring ceremonies, scheduled for 7 p.m. this evening and 9 a.m. on Saturday.

During Friday’s ceremony, Chancellor Randy Woodson will confer an honorary degree on alumnus Jeff Williams, chief operating officer at Apple.

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