Many colleges and universities across North Carolina have added thousands of alumni. Students from UNC-Chapel Hill and Duke University were among those to turn their tassels Sunday.
Harvard surgeon and best-selling author Atul Gawande spoke at UNC's commencement. The theme of Gawande's speech was how to find the right place to live and work after graduation.
"One thing I came to realize after college was that the search for purpose is really a search for a place, not an idea," says Gawande.
"The key is if you find yourself in a place where if you stop caring -- if your greatest concern becomes only you -- you get out of there."
UNC graduated nearly 6,000 students this year.
The chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Martin Dempsey, told graduates of Duke University to lead what he called lives of consequence.
"America needs you," Dempsey said. "It needs each of you if it hopes to remain what it is and what it needs to be. We are, and have it within us, to remain exceptional, but you've got to make this wonderful education you've just consumed matter. Make it matter."
Dempsey got his Master's degree from Duke in 1984. More than 5,000 students there received undergraduate, graduate and professional degrees this year.
On Saturday, students from North Carolina State and North Carolina Central also took the traditional Mother's Day weekend walk to receive their degrees.