An education pioneer

October 12, 2012

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William C. Friday, a legend in North Carolina for his pioneering work in higher education, has died. He was 92 years old.

Friday, an alumnus of NC State, served as president of the University of North Carolina System for 30 years. During his tenure, Friday oversaw the system’s growth from four campuses to 16. He was instrumental in making North Carolina home to one of the finest higher education systems in the world.

“Bill Friday was a transformational leader in public higher education,” NC State Chancellor Randy Woodson said. “He was known as someone who always put others first. I, along with countless other leaders in higher education, benefited from his wise advice and counsel. Through his distinguished career, he modeled public service at its best, marked by integrity, courtesy, humility and perseverance. He set the standard for the value and importance of education in this state. Thanks to his legacy, North Carolina will continue to be a leader in education.“

Raised in Dallas, N.C., Friday earned a bachelor’s degree in textile manufacturing from NC State in 1941. As a student, Friday was a resident advisor, sports editor for Technician and president of his senior class. Friday also met his future wife, Ida, at NC State.

Speaking at graduation in 1941, Friday told his classmates to “keep State College constantly in your mind. . . You and I are going to be held responsible in a great measure for the growth and progress of the institution.”

He more than lived up to those words. During Friday’s years as UNC president, the system grew tremendously. So did NC State. From Friday’s appointment in 1956 to his retirement in 1986, the university’s enrollment quadrupled.

“Most of us, as we grow older, really resist change,” Friday said when reflecting on his NC State experience in 2009. “We don’t want things to be different. But the business of this institution is to make things different. And you have to understand that when you’re a part of (NC State), that’s the glory of it.”

Friday’s legacy lives on at NC State, as it does across North Carolina. NC State is home to the William and Ida Friday Institute for Educational Innovation.

Photo Gallery

UNC System president emeritus William Friday. UNC System president emeritus William Friday (right) listens as Randy Woodson (left) is named the new chancellor at NC State. CHAN.Woodson.BOG.0194 UNC System president emeritus William Friday and students from Centennial Campus Middle School. UNC System president emeritus William Friday (right) listens as Randy Woodson (left) is named the new chancellor at NC State. UNC System president emeritus William Friday (left) and Ann Goodnight at the Friday Medal ceremony. friday medal 09-042 ACHIEVE.Fridays2 ACHIEVE.Fridays1 Bill Friday and Shorty Barnes share memories of their days at NC State.ALUMNI.prez.4142 Bill Friday chats with well-wishers at the Friday Medal ceremony.friday medal 09-047 Bill Friday and Chancellor Woodson attend a retirement party for faculty. chancellor install-780 Interim chancellor Dr. Jim Woodward and Bill Friday chat prior to the ribbon-cutting ceremony of the newly renovated Thompson Theatre.OPA.WoodwardFriday.0057 copy William Friday sits next to Susan Woodson Standing room only crowd listens to Chancellor-elect Randy Woodson as he addresses the UNC Board of Governors. Bill Friday during his college days at NC State. Interim chancellor Dr. Jim Woodward (left) and Bill Friday chat prior to the ribbon-cutting ceremony of the newly renovated Thompson Theatre. Bill and Ida Friday take their dog for a walk down their street in Chapel Hill. Bill and Ida Friday. William Friday William Friday meets Park Scholars during the visit of Mrs. Park to the new Alumni building. PARK.073 William Friday. Kenneth A. Branch was the inaugural recipient of the Friday Medal and received his award during American Education Week on November 15, 2006. The Friday Medal honors service in the field of education. William and Ida Friday were in attendance. .friday_med The College of Education's Friday Institute, next door to the Centennial Campus Middle School. Bill Friday during his Technician days at NC State. Bill Friday (left) interviews basketball coach Kay Yow for his UNC-TV show. Bill Friday during his NC State college days. NC State student body president Bill Friday (center). Bill Friday (center) at the groundbreaking of Carter-Finley Stadium. Bill Friday and the Belltower. Chancellor John T. Caldwell (left) takes his oath as Bill Friday looks on. Bill Friday (second from left) and Chancellor John T. Caldwell (right) at the opening of Lee Residence Hall.0003878-show 0228087-show