It was a day of celebration at UNC Greensboro, with nearly 2,500 Spartans turning their tassels at May Commencement and embarking on a new journey as future business executives, health professionals, artists, teachers, and community leaders.
It was also a day full of laughter, thanks to comedian, actor, writer, producer, and physician Ken Jeong, who imparted words of wisdom and shared his personal story – often irreverent and unfiltered – to the Class of 2019.
A Greensboro native, Dr. Jeong began his remarks by talking about his connections to the city and to UNCG. His sister graduated from UNCG’s Master of Library and Information Studies Program, and Dr. Jeong himself took organic chemistry at UNCG – and spent many hours studying in Jackson Library – between his freshman and sophomore years at Duke University.
Throughout his speech, Dr. Jeong had the audience in stitches. But his key message to the graduates was serious: Find your passion.
Dr. Jeong talked about how he found his passion later in life – at age 38 – after working for years as a physician in California. At first, he was apprehensive to take the plunge into the entertainment industry. But with the encouragement and support of his family, he decided to quit his day job and pursue his passions of comedy and acting full time.
“The only thing I have to offer in life is my passion. I think that’s the only thing that keeps me going,” he said. “I’m just looking at every single student here: Find your passion, and if you’ve found your passion, as you graduate, let that evolve.”
He also recognized and celebrated the first-generation students who graduated today, and applauded the University’s efforts to support these students. Approximately 38 percent of UNCG students are the first in their family to attend college.
Dr. Jeong finished by telling the graduates that his biggest talent is persistence.
“After my show got cancelled, I stuck it out. After good things happen, I stick it out. I keep moving no matter what. And I encourage you, good times and bad, keep moving, keep finding your passion. I honestly say to every single soul in this coliseum: If I can do this, and if I can do what I want, so can you. You have the light and the future and the universe ahead of you.”
Congratulations, Class of 2019!
See social media highlights from Commencement below.
Story by Alyssa Bedrosian, University Communications
Photography by Lynn Hey